Trikala, a small city in Greece with a strong athletics tradition, is going to host the IAAF Super Grand Prix Meeting “Tsiklitiria 2003” on Tuesday 24 June. Although the meeting is usually held every year in Athens, the works on upgrading the Olympic Stadium are still in progress, and so the famous meeting has moved to Trikala, the home of two former world record holders, the Javelin thrower Sofia Sakorafa (1982) and the Pole Vaulter Christos Papanikolaou (1970), and plenty of younger stars from Greek athletics.
Ten Olympic Champions will compete at the Tsiklitiria meeting, where the 180 participating athletes have between them won 131 medals in the Olympic Games, World and continental championships. The organizing Club Panellinios A.C. continues year-by-year to upgrade the meeting which is the premier outdoor spectacle for the sport in Greece.
The world best athletes in the women’s Triple Jump have already confirmed their participation in the meeting. The reigning Olympic Champion, Bulgarian Tereza Marinova, the World record holder and 1996 Olympic Champion Inessa Kravets from Ukraine, the current world leading athlete Cuban Yamile Aldama, Russia’s reigning World champion Tatyana Lebedeva, and the Italian record holder Magdelin Martinez, promise a competition of the highest level. Along with them, the Greeks will put up a stiff defence with Olga Vasdeki, the 1998 European Champion, Chryssopigi Devetzi, who ended the indoor season with an impressive 14.84m, and the new comer Irene Dimitraki, representing the hosts.
Trinidad’s Ato Boldon, one of the most popular foreign athletes in Greece, has a long tradition of competing in the Tsiklitiria. He has sprinted under 10 seconds here, and was second in the historic 100m race of 1999, when Maurice Greene broke the World record in Athens.
This year Boldon will compete against Britain's European Champion Dwain Chambers, the Canadian sprinter of Greek origin Nicolas Makrozonaris - who defeated Tim Montgomery in Mexico last month - while two other Britons Darren Campbell and Jason Gardener will also be in the race. Greece will be represented by the national record holder Angelos Pavlakakis, Aristotelis Gavelas who is the fastest Greek this year, and the finalist from the European Championships George Theodoridis.
Undoubtedly, Kostas Kenteris will be one of the biggest stars of the meeting. The 200m runner who uniquely has won the Olympic, World and European crowns, opens his 200m season in the European Cup in Florence, and goes to Trikala, although his rivals have not yet been announced.
The men’s 3000m steeplechase race is expected to be one of the highlights of the meeting, as the spectators will watch the battle among the Kenyans, who include World Junior record holder Stephen Cherono, his compatriot the 1997 World champion Wilson Boit Kipketer, who was also the silver medallist at the Sydney Olympics. John Kosgei, Ezekiel Kempoi and Misoi Kipkurui will also run in the race, giving rise to expectations for an extremely fast pace, perhaps not far off the World record.
Triple Olympic and World champion, and World record holder in the Javelin, Jan Zelezny of the czech Republic comes for the first time to “Tsiklitiria”, but he won’t meet with Kostas Gatsioudis, as the World bronze medallist has decided not to compete this year, as he is still facing injury problems.
However, Zelezny will have the opportunity to meet the Russian Sergey Makarov, who was 3rd at the Sydney Olympic Games and second at the European Championships in Munich, and 1999 World champion Aki Parviainen from Finland, who was also took silver in Edmonton. Also in the field, Germany’s Boris Henry, Alexander Ivanov of Russia, and the Norwegian Andreas Thorkildsen, holder of the World Junior record.
Jolanda Ceplak, Slovenia’s women’s European 800m champion and World indoor record holder will be in Trikala to compete with the Bulgarian Tsvetelina Kirilova, Diane Cummins from Canada and Hasna Benhassi from Morocco.
In the men’s two lapper the big names are those of Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy and the Kenyans Wilfred Bungei, Joseph Mutua and William Yiampoy, as well as Antonio Manuel Reina from Spain.
America’s Olympic and World Pole Vault Champion Stacy Dragila, will have another battle with the Russia's European Champion Svetlana Feofanova, which will guarantee a high level of the competition. The presence of Yelena Isinbayeva, European silver medallist in Munich, means even these two greats cannot rest easy.
Besides Kenteris, another top Greek sprinter, European 100m champion Katerina Thanou, had also expressed her wish to be in the Tsiklitiria this year. However, her participation is now in doubt after a sudden injury.
The long jumpers Dimitris Filindras and Luis Tsatoumas, with season’s bests at 8.30m and 8.24 m respectively, and three more Greek men who have exceeded the 8 metres this year - Dimitris Serelis, Konstantinos Koukodimos and Tasos Makrynikolas - are ready to compete with the reigning World and Olympic champion, Cuba’s Ivan Pedroso and the Americans, Savante Stringfellow and Dwight Phillips.
Finally, the European women’s Discus champion Katerina Voggoli, who set a personal best of 65.01m in the national championships last week, and Stella Tsikouna and Anastassia Kelesidou, who have both thrown over 63m this year, are among the Greeks who want to have a try-out in international competition, two months before the IAAF World Championships in Paris.