Czech athletes gathered for the 31st time to decide national indoor titles, and the overall results from this weekend at Prague's Otakar Jandera Hall served to confirm that the men's High Jump still rules supreme as that nation's most significant athletics exports.
(N.B.: A separate Czech indoor championship competition was held for many years, even during the Czecho-Slovak years before the nation was divided in1993.)
Baba sends the crowd home happy
The men’s High Jump bronze medallist last year in Athens, Jaroslav Bába, won his second national indoor title, just as conventional wisdom might have predicted, although the 20-year-old faces as much competition in national meetings these days, with the steady presence of Olympic eighth-placer Svatoslav Ton, as he does at many international competitions.
Today, however, Bába was supreme, leaping 2.30 to equal the championships record for the victory and making several good tries at 2.35 to send the enthusiastic crowd home at the end of Sunday afternoon.
At the outset, it appeared that Bába might be having an off-day, as he looked a bit aloof in missing at his opening 2.21. Ton, as well as the third Czech Olympian, Tomás Janku, each kept their respective records clean with first-jump clearances at that juncture, such that Bába’s eventual second-round success had him sitting only in third.
The youthful Ostravan then succeeded at 2.24 as Janku and Ton elected to watch, setting up 2.27 as the potential title decider.
For Bába, the height held no challenge, but for the others, it was an exit point for the day.
With the crown already secure, Bába leaped 2.30 on his second try and then saw the bar fall off only in the final stages of his third effort at 2.35.
Asked why he had asked for only 2.30, and not a championships record 2.31, he replied, “I came here only to win and not to jump a record.” His reason could well have been accepted if not completely believed, given that his attempts - especially the final one - at 2.35 were excitingly close.
“To be honest, I prefer a floor with a little more spring to it,” he admitted, almost with a wink, indicating a soft-spoken indictment of the jumping surface at the Stromovka hall and its granite-like concrete sub-floor.
“If I had jumped 2.35 here today - and I almost did on my final attempt - I would have considered that effort superior to the 2.37 I had in Arnstadt two weeks ago,” he reasoned, exuding confidence as he prepares for next Wednesday’s competition in Weinheim.
Ton and Janku ended up tied at second with 2.21. For the 30-year-old Janku, this competition indicated his successful progress in recovering from a hamstring injury sustained last month while doing heptathlon training.
1.92 win in women’s High Jump
The Women’s High Jump saw Olympian Iva Straková jumping 1.92 to win her second career indoor national title against the defending champion, Barbora Laláková, who ended with a 1.89 best.
Straková closed out her day with three unsuccessful jumps at a would-be season-best 1.95.
Denisa Scerbová’s successful title defence with 6.40 in the women’s Long Jump was somewhat off her season-best (and national indoor record) 6.64. As it was, the 18-year-old needed a late rally to deny a fourth indoor title to Lucie Komrsková, whose early 6.34 dominated the initial rounds. Martina Darmovzalová was third at 6.20.
Securing Madrid selection
This weekend held the final opportunity for many athletes to meet the Czech Federation’s standards for nomination to the team which will compete at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid early next month.
Two of those who secured their team spots at the last minute came from the 60 metres Hurdles races. Stanislav Sajdok’s 7.75 exactly met the limit in the men’s event while tying the championship record, and Lucie Martincová slipped under the norm by 0.01 with her heat time of 8.13 before winning the final in 8.15.
Michal Sneberger, already Madrid-bound in the Men’s 1500, easily won the Men’s 3000 Metres in 8:05.86, almost eight seconds ahead of the nearest challenger.
Likewise, Pavla Hamácková had previously secured nomination, but her 4.30 today in winning a fifth crown was still important in bringing her even with Daniela Bartová in number of indoor titles won.
Petr Stehlik, a finalist in the Olympic men’s Shot Put, dominated his event with a 19.89 season-best, while Stepán Wagner eked out a victory over Tomás Pour, 7.72 to 7.70, in the Men’s Long Jump.
Disappointment for Kaspárková
On the other side of the qualifying fence were some notables who failed to gain a ticket to Madrid despite winning national titles. A six-time medallist in World or European championships, Sárka Kaspárková, saw her winning 13.93 in the women’s Triple Jump fall short of the required 14.10. Her résumé of twelve triple jump crowns, plus two titles in the high jump, comprise her unsurpassed total of fourteen career indoor championship victories. This is set to be Kaspárková’s last indoor season before retirement.
Stepán Janácek fell victim to leg cramps and ended with 5.40 in the men’s Pole Vault when 5.60 was needed. Still, it was the first indoor crown for the two-time Olympian.
Jirí Muzík and Jaroslav Cech chased each other home in a dead-heat 47.44 in the men’s 400 Metres to provide great spectator excitement but not the benchmark 47.00 established for Madrid participation.
One further athlete was well aware of the difficulty in running fast middle-distance times in national championships, and he brought a pacemaker with him to the heats of the men’s 800 metres. Even with these added services, Jaroslav Ruza fell short of the 1:48.00 he sought with a 1:48.47 heat time, although he did return on the final day to win his first national title by a margin of almost two seconds with 1:50.11.
Sebrle was just a face in the crowd
Olympic Decathlon champion Roman Sebrle, who is slated to compete in the Heptathlon event in Madrid, was a spectator over the weekend. He is scheduled to compete in the Long Jump and 60 Hurdles next Friday in Chemnitz as his final tune-up for defending the European Indoor title he won three years ago in Vienna.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF