Martina Ratej approaching the 66m line in Arles (Bernarda Letnar) © Copyright
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Ratej improves to 65.96m in the Javelin in Arles - European Cup Winter Throws

Martina Ratej's breakthrough effort in the Javelin Throw was among the key highlights of the 10th European Cup Winter Throwing meeting in Arles, France, on Saturday (20) and Sunday (21).

Ratej, 28, reached 65.96m with her first throw to smash her own national record of 63.44m from 2008, and to nab a surprise victory on Sunday as well. It was a performance which would have firmly landed the Berlin World Championships finalist into the world top-five last season.

Ratej couldn't quite match her big throw with her follow-up efforts of 62.06m and 61.52m before calling it a day, but her massive first round effort was enough to beat pre-meet favourite Mariya Abakumova, the reigning Olympic silver and World bronze medallist.

"Before the competition, I was expecting to throw beyond 60 metres, but I wasn't expecting to beat Abakumova," Ratej told STA, the Slovenia Press Agency. "This winter I trained really well, got stronger, and improved technically as well, which showed in today's results."

11th at the 2009 World Championships, Ratej took bronze at the Mediterranean Games last year and is now cautiously optimistic about her chances at July's European championships in Barcelona.

"My goal for the summer is the European championships, where I want to finish really well. I hope I'll be in the same kind of form."

Abakumova did come close with a 65.21m toss in the second round, and kept up the pressure on the Slovenian until the final round when she reached 63.70m.

Shot Put sweep for Belarus...

As expected, throwers from Belarus dominated the Shot Put. Recently crowned World indoor champion Nadzeya Ostapchuk twice threw 20.16m to dominate the women’s event on Sunday, with her compatriot Natallia Mikhnevich, the bronze medallist in Doha, finishing second with a 19.55m best.

Andrei Mikhnevich, who struck silver in Doha, dominated the men’s event on Saturday with a 21.04m best. Although the 33-year-old was far from the distances he reached during the indoor season, each of his four fair throws would have been enough for victory. Asmir Kolašinac of Serbia was second with a 20.15m best, with Hungary’s Lajos Kürthy (20.07m) rounding out the top-three.

... and German sweep in the Discus

There was a German sweep of the Discus Throw, courtesy of Nadine Müller and Markus Münch, who each reached career bests.

Müller, who was sixth at the World Championships last summer, was the only woman to throw beyond 60 metres and with the competition well in hand, threw 64.30m in the final round, nearly a metre better than her previous best of 63.46m. 
Poland's Zaneta Glanc, fourth in Berlin last summer, was a distant runner-up at 59.95m while World bronze medallist Nicoleta Grasu of Romania took third, with a modest 59.92m.

Münch, last year’s World University Games bronze medallist, threw 65.37m in the third round to improve on his previous best of 64.90m set at this meeting a year ago. In a consistent series, he also produced two other 64m-plus throws, which would have been enough to defeat runner-up Maria Pestano of Spain whose best effort was 63.78m.

Throwing in the Under-23 competition, women’s world leader Sandra Perkovic of Croatia won by more than six metres with a 61.93m best. Perkovic, the 2009 European junior champion and still only 19, threw 66.85m earlier this month at her national winter throw championships.

Elsewhere, Germany Betty Heidler, the World silver medallist, dominated the women’s Hammer Throw with a 72.48m winning toss, with no others reaching the 70-metre line. On paper, her closest rival was 22-year-old Zalina Marghieva of Moldova who won the U-23 competition with a 70.77m toss, the second farthest of her career.

Russian Ilya Korotkov was the only thrower to surpass the 80m-line in the javelin and won easily with his 83.28m best. Italy’s Nicola Vizzoni edged Yury Shayunou of Belarus in the men’s Hammer Throw, 76.63m to 76.30m.

Click here for full results

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF