Moldovan javelin thrower Andrian Mardare in action (© AFP / Getty Images)
In a javelin competition where the top three athletes exceeded a championship record that had stood for 32 years, Moldova’s Andrian Mardare emerged victorious with 83.60m, producing one of the main highlights of the Balkan Championships in Cluj-Napoca.
More than 250 athletes from 11 countries descended on the Romanian city for two days of action, which concluded on Sunday (20).
Mardare, bronze medallist at the 2016 Balkan Championships, headed to Romania off the back of some strong performances on the Continental Tour circuit. After opening with a foul, he took command of the competition with his second-round effort of 82.78m.
Bulgaria’s Mark Slavov, who took silver at last year’s Balkan Championships and bronze in 2018, threw a PB of 78.28m in the second round but then unleashed an almighty 83.40m to break the Bulgarian record, adding almost nine metres to his pre-competition best.
Mardare kept his composure and responded with 81.01m to close out that round, but then improved to 83.60m in round four to take a narrow lead. Salvov didn’t improve on his record throw, while Mardare rounded out his consistent series with efforts of 83.03m and 80.68m.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Dejan Mileusnic, the 2016 Balkan champion, finished third with 79.57m, which was better than the previous championship best.
Alin Alexandru Firfirica won his fourth Balkan title in the men’s discus. The Romanian, who finished fourth at last year’s World Championships, threw 64.72m to win by more than six metres.
Compatriot Bianca Ghelber also landed her fourth senior Balkan title. The two-time world U20 champion, now aged 30, produced her best series of the year to win the women’s hammer with 72.18m, regaining the title she last won in 2014.
For the second year in a row, the men’s hammer title was won by an U20 athlete. 2019 winner Christos Frantzeskakis was unable to defend his title as Greece opted not to send a team, leaving Mykhaylo Kokhan a relatively clear path to victory.
The 19-year-old Ukrainian, who finished fifth at last year’s World Championships, took the lead in round three with 75.01m and followed it with three further throws beyond 75 metres, his best – 75.43m – coming in the penultimate round.
Tkachuk takes 400m hurdles title, Bobocea completes middle-distance double
Ukrainian athletes scooped several medals on the track and they landed a 1-2 finish in both of the women’s one-lap events.
Viktoriia Tkachuk won the 400m hurdles in 55.58, finishing comfortably ahead of teammate Mariaa Mykolenko. Anna Ryzhykova, better known as a hurdler, focused on the 400m flat in Cluj-Napoca and won handily in 51.74, just 0.04 shy of the PB she set last month. Compatriot Alina Logvynenko was second in 52.89.
All four women teamed up in the 4x400m on Sunday and won gold by almost four seconds in 3:34.21.
Claudia Bobocea won both of the host nation’s individual track titles. She took the 800m title on Saturday in 2:03.32 and then returned to the track 24 hours later to win the 1500m in 4:12.95.
Turkey’s Jak Ali Harvey was the most successful athlete of the championships. He won the men’s sprint double in 10.30 and 20.77 and added another gold medal in the 4x100m (39.63). Turkey added another relay gold in the final race of the championships, the men’s 4x400m (3:06.35).
Petrova lands double jumps gold
Bulgaria’s Gabriela Petrova also had a busy weekend. The 2015 European indoor silver medallist comfortably won her specialist event, the triple jump, on Saturday with 14.19m (0.8m/s). She was back on the runway on Sunday in the long jump and once again emerged victorious, taking the lead in round three with 6.34m and then improving to 6.41m in the fourth round.
She becomes the first athlete since Marian Oprea in 2014 to complete the horizontal jumps double at the Balkan Championships.
Other jumps highlights came from Armenia’s Levon Aghasyan, who won the men’s triple jump with his opening effort of 16.53m, and Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko, who claimed the men’s high jump title with 2.25m.
Elsewhere, Alina Shukh won the heptathlon title with a massive 1000-point margin, scoring 5940, helped by a 51.90m effort in the javelin.
Ukraine topped the medals table with 12 gold and 32 medals in total, followed by Turkey (10 gold) and Romania (8).
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics