Ekaterini Stefanidi celebrates setting a new World Youth best in Athens (© Greek Federation)
With two months to go, about a dozen Greek athletes have met the standards for the IAAF World Youth Championships to be held in Marrakech, Morocco in July.
The National Athletics Federation (SEGAS) have set stricter standards than those decided by the IAAF, reducing the number of the potential participants but also increasing the possibilities for a distinctive performance by those who will finally manage to participate in the championships.
The 15-year-old pole vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi is expected to be the star of the Greek team. The young girl has already set a World all-time youth best last February with 4.37m. She competed in six meetings during the past indoor season and improved the national junior and youth records six times! Her mark at 4.37m also equalled the women’s Pole Vault indoor national record!
Stefanidi comes from a family with a strong athletics tradition. Her father, Georgios Stefanidis, is a former triple jumper with a personal best of 16.25m in the 80s, while her mother, Zoi Vareli, ran the 400m in 58.93 in the 70s.
She began her significant improvements from the age of 12, when after two seasons of training she cleared 3.55m to become the best world all-time 12-year-old vaulter.
She repeated the same achievement in the next years, climbing to the top of the respective lists for 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds and reached the World youth best just one week after her 15th birthday.
First GP appearance in Doha
“The Pole Vault was just a hobby for me when I began”, said the youngster after breaking the record. “When I was 12, I realised that I could produce some good results. From the beginning of 2005 I wanted to clear 4.32m to take the record. In Marrakech I want to get a medal and, depending on the circumstances in the competition, I may attempt for the gold.”
Although from the beginning of the season Stefanidi has set the World Youth Championships as her main objective of the year, she seems to have a more complicated schedule. Not only does she want to compete in the European Juniors Championships in Kaunas, but also she plans to have her first Grand Prix experience, confirming her participation in the Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix to be held tomorrow (13 May).
Last month, she started her competition programme for the year winning the schools championships with 4.10m.
Michalis Nikitaridis for the IAAF