As expected, Romania’s triple jumper Marian Oprea, was the athlete who attracted most attention at the 13th edition of the Balkan Indoor Championships, held yesterday in Peania, Athens.
The World bronze and Olympic silver medallist dominated the competition with a 17.51m effort, and then a few minutes later declared to the Greek television his eagerness not only to win the gold medal in the World Indoor Championships in Moscow next month, but also to set a new World Indoor record before the end of the season.
“I have the record on my mind. It’s my main objective for this season, along with the gold medal in Moscow,” Oprea stressed.
Oprea currently leads the world indoor list with the top-four best marks of 2006, headed by his 17.74m (18 Feb) which he jumped in Bucharest, Romania. The current World Indoor record is 17.83m held jointly by Cuba's Alicer Urrutia (1997) and Sweden's Christian Olsson (2004).
Marinova returns with 14.49m
Another Triple Jump star, Bulgaria’s Tereza Marinova produced one of the highlights of the championships. The Sydney Olympic champion won with 14.49m, the fourth best world mark in this season so far, and convinced all here that she will be among the main contenders of the World Indoor medals.
Romanians dominate the middle distances
Once more, the Romanian athletes were almost unbeatable in the middle distance events. Mihaella Neacu clocked 2:02.00 in the 800m race, defeating compatriot Elena Iager, the European Indoor 1500m champion, who clocked 2.02.25. In the 3000m, Cristina Casandra won in a time of 9:12.43.
Only Bulgaria’s Daniela Yordanova could break Romania’s winning streak. Yordanova was the winner of the1500m with 4:07.11, defeating the silver medallist from last winter’s European Indoor Championships, Romania’s Corina Dumbravean.
Theodoridis returns to track, setting Moscow standard
The return of Georgios Theodoridis, after more than a year of absence, was one of the pleasant moments for the Greek team. Theodoridis set the best time in the 60m with 6.62 to meet the standard for the World Indoor Championships. Two more Greek athletes also verified their good shape; the long jumper Stella Pilatou who won with 6.66m, and the hurdler Alexandra Komnou who set a 60mH personal best with 8.09, in a close competition with Romania’s Viorica Tigau (8.11).
A veteran of the women’s High Jump, Bulgaria’s Venelina Veneva cleared 1.93m to defeat Oana Pantelimon (1.87m), while George Guset verified his good condition in this period with a winning 20.72m in the men’s Shot Put.
Michalis Nikitaridis for the IAAF