One day after the launch of the IAAF Heritage World / Continental Cup - 1977 To 2018 – Exhibition in the Ostrava city centre the focus of the promotional activities ahead of the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018 moved to the suburbs and the famous Mestsky Stadium, home of the IAAF World Challenge meeting in the Czech city where12 world records have been set.
The venue of the IAAF Continental Cup on 8-9 September played host to more than 500 youngsters between the ages of eight and 18 who competed in the semi-finals of the Ostrava Supports Continents project in which the schools represent one of the four continental teams that will compete in the third edition of the Cup in just over three months’ time.
The younger age groups from elementary schools competed in mixed 8x200m and 8x300m relays while older secondary school pupils contested boys and girls 4x400m relays.
The finals for all three age groups will be part of the pre-programme of the IAAF Continental Cup, fulfilling one of the aims of the project to ensure a link between the two competitions, and also between elite athletes at the pinnacle of their profession and the young developing grassroots of the sport.
ZS Porubska elementary school – representing Europe – is clearly a repository for local talent as they triumphed by some considerable margin in both the younger age-group relays, finishing first overall in 4:16.09 and 5:44.72, and coming home more than 20 and 39 seconds quicker than their nearest rivals.
In the boys 4x400m heats, one young athlete who caught the eye was the 16-year-old Jan Pisek, who competes for the local Ostrava athletics club and showed considerable familiarity with the track.
The teenager took over more than 10 metres in arrears on the anchor leg for his school Matiční Gymnázium Ostrava, who were representing Africa, but brought them home in 3:47.01, stopping the clock over four seconds quicker than any other team.
In addition to the plaudits from his team mates, he sportingly got congratulations from members of the vanquished teams as he left the track following his impressive display, in which he seemed to barely break sweat despite the temperatures soaring into the high 20s.
Slezské Gymnázium Opava, also representing Africa, was the fastest in the girls’ 4x400m in 4:16.39.
Cheering the children on from the sidelines and helping present the awards at the end of the morning’s action, were Australia’s two-time world 400m hurdles champion IAAF Athlete Ambassador Jana Pittman, who is also an Ambassador for the IAAF Continental Cup, as well as local stars pole vaulter Jan Kudlicka and middle-distance runner Jakub Holusa.
Also on hand among the various dignitaries was Tomas Janku, the IAAF World Cup Athens 2006 high jump winner who is now the Czech athletics federation’s director general.
“We have tried to engage children from the Moravian-Silesian region in the marking, promotion and preparation of such an important international competition. We believe that this is motivation for them, and new champions may appear among them,” said City of Ostrava Mayor Tomas Macura at the opening ceremony for the semi-finals.
“The Ostrava Supports Continents project has been prepared for two years and hundreds of children from elementary and high schools have taken part in it.
“I believe that children will enjoy the competitive atmosphere at the stadium where world records have fallen and the greatest athletic stars including Usain Bolt were racing,” he added.
The delighted post-race reaction of the vast majority of the participants in Ostrava could be taken as a ringing endorsement of Macura’s words.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF