The 2013-2016 IAAF Strategic Plan has six Core Values: universality, leadership, unity, excellence, integrity and solidarity, and a Vision Statement: “To lead, govern and develop the sport of athletics in all its forms worldwide, uniting the Athletics Family in a spirit of excellence, integrity and solidarity.”
BielskoThis year's edition of the Polish national championships in Bielsko-Biala (8-10 July) featured multiple high-class performances, but was not without its share of disappointments.
The throwing events took centre stage once again, as Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski took the Shot Put title with 21.25m and Piotr Malachowski won the Discus Throw contest with 67.48m. The jumps featured a new national record in the Triple Jump of 14.27m by Malgorzata Trybanska as well as a surprise personal best for Lukasz Michalski - 5.80m in the Pole Vault, and Wojciech Theiner - 2.30m in the High Jump.
Both of Poland's reigning World champions, Anita Wlodarczyk and Anna Rogowska, had to miss the championships due to injuries. Other casualties included silver medalist from Berlin Monika Pyrek, not able to perform up to her usual standard due to health problems, and former World Championship medalist Anna Jesien, who did not finish her race after a muscle pull.
Wlodarczyk still injured, Barcelona appearance uncertain
The first day of the championships was due to feature five of Poland's eight current World Championship medallists. Two of the biggest names, however, never made it to the starting line. Wlodarczyk, who set a World Hammer Throw record earlier this year, planned this to be her first competition in a month after back problems. This was not to be. On the eve of the championships came the news that the injury took longer to heal than initially thought. Wlodarczyk's start in the European Championships is now also in question. Her coach Krzysztof Kaliszewski was quoted as saying the World record holder will not go to Barcelona unless she feels she is in the shape necessary to take gold.
Rogowska and Pyrek battling injuries
More problems were on the way in the women's Pole Vault. First, Rogowska announced her withdrawal due to an Achilles tendon injury. The World champion is planning a comeback in Barcelona, but it remains to be seen how the interruption to her training will affect her form.
Pyrek, Poland's other star of the event, did compete, but after suffering a ligament tear earlier this year, it was evident from recent appearances that she was not at her best. Even so, she took another national title, as second-time clearance at her opening height of 4.20m proved enough to take gold on this occasion. She did not get close to clearing the subsequent height of 4.35m on any of her attempts. After the competition, visibly upset, Pyrek announced she was cancelling the rest of her season and will not be defending her silver medal from the last edition of the European Championships.
Malachowski and Majewski cruise to expected titles
The bad news was offset somewhat by strong performances by Poland's two leading male throwers on the same day. Malachowski confirmed his recent excellent form in the discus competition. After starting off with two moderate attempts, he got going in the third, sending the discus to 67.48m to set a new championship record. By the end of the competition, he had three throws in excess of 66 metres, confirming his status as one of the favourites in the European Championships.
Majewski did not have as smooth a ride. After three rounds of the competition, his best was a lowly 19.68m. And yet he also came through in the end, improving first to 20.07m, then to 20.35m and finally setting a new season best of 21.25m in the last round to confirm his medal aspirations for Barcelona.
The women's 100m final featured good performances considering it was run into 1.6 mps headwind. The 20-year old Weronika Wedler proved the fastest with 11.42, just ahead of Ewelina Ptak 11.45 and Marika Popowicz 11.49. Earlier on in the heats, Wedler set a personal best of 11.38 (wind +1.9) and Ptak ran the exact same time, albeit wind-aided (+2.1).
In the men's short sprint final, Robert Kubaczyk was the clear winner with 10.36 (wind +0.1).
Day two started with an exciting duel between World Championship medallist Szymon Ziolkowski and Wojciech Kondratowicz in the men's Hammer Throw. After two throws, Ziolkowski led by just seven centimetres, 75.89m to 75.82m, but it was in the third round that the competition was set alight. Ziolkowski set a season's best of 77.51m and must have felt close to another national title. But Kondratowicz had other ideas. Going last in the throwing order, he sent the implement flying to 78.18m. The 30-year old only returned to competition last season after a five-year hiatus, and his result from Bielsko is his best since 2003.
That day was not without bad news, either. In the women's 400m Hurdles final, Jesien pulled up midway after suffering a muscle pull. This opened the way for the 20-year old Marzena Koscielniak to take the national title in 56.56, a full 1.33 faster than her pre-meet best.
As the extent of Jesien's injury is not yet clear, her participation in the European Championships will be decided after medical tests early next week.
One of the highlights of the day was a breakthrough performance of Anna Jagaciak in the Long Jump. The 20 year-old bronze medallist of last year's European Junior Championships entered the competition with a personal best of 6.45m. She bettered that distance no less than three times and in the end won the competition with 6.67m. That performance equalled the national U23 record set by Irena Szewinska a full 42 years ago, and it earned Jagaciak a place on the national team for the European Championships.
The final of the men's 400m confirmed that the national relay may once again contend for medals in Barcelona. In a closely fought race, Marcin Marciniszyn came through to win in 45.71 ahead of Kacper Kozlowski's 45.84.
Michalski improves to 5.80m
The highlights of the final day of competition in Bielsko were the jumping events. Arguably the best performance of the day came in the Pole Vault. It took the 21-year old Lukasz Michalski just two attempts - first-time clearances at 5.40m and 5.60m - to ensure the win, but he did not stop there. He proceeded to clear a new personal best of 5.75m first time, and went even better, conquering 5.80m on his second jump. It was only at attempting a new national record of 5.91m that he had to surrender to the height.
Mateusz Didenkow placed second with 5.50m, as the pre-meet favourite Przemyslaw Czerwinski had three misses at his opening height of 5.40m.
The only national record of the championships came in the women's Triple Jump courtesy of Malgorzata Trybanska. Her 14.27m in the fifth round of the competition beat her own mark from 2007 by 3 centimetres. Theiner takes upset win in High Jump with 2.30 career best
In the men's High Jump, a battle was expected between Berlin medalist Sylwester Bednarek and the Polish season leader Konrad Owczarek. The two did indeed have a close fight - but it was only for second place. Wojciech Theiner, who returned to competition last year after missing the previous two seasons due to injuries, this time produced an inspired performance. After a shaky start and a last-attempt clearance at 2.18m, he took the next heights of 2.22m and 2.26m first time, 2.28m on his second jump and 2.30m on his first. With this last height, he broke his four-year old personal best by two centimetres and jumped right into the national team for Barcelona. Bednarek and Owczarek tied for second place at 2.22m.
Kszczot and Plis take 800m titles
In absence of Europe's fastest 800m man this year, Marcin Lewandowski, World Indoor medallist Adam Kszczot was the clear favourite and he did not disappoint. After a solo run, with the first lap of just over 52 seconds, Kszczot tired somewhat towards the end, but he easily held on for the win in 1:47.37.
The women's race over the same distance was won by Renata Plis in 2:01.92. Angelika Cichocka, who had a brave solo attempt to achieve the European Championship standard in qualifying the previous day, finishing in 2:02.49, was a tired-looking runner-up in the final, over a second behind Plis.
Artur Noga, another European Championship medal hopeful, easily won the men's high-hurdles race. Slowed down somewhat by the 1.0 mps headwind, he reached the finish line in 13.51.
The 200 metre finals were also affected by headwinds. Weronika Wedler added another title to the one she had won in the short sprint, winning with 23.36 (-1.9) and Kamil Krynski won the men's race in 20.96 (-1.5).
In the women's 1500m, Sylwia Ejdys produced her trademark strong finish to win in 4:13.13, ahead of the 800m winner Plis 4:13.84. Lidia Chojecka took third, more than two seconds behind the winner.
Lewandowski had missed the 800m in Bielsko due to appearance in the Samsung Diamond League meet in Lausanne, but he was back in time to win the 1500m final in a new personal best of 3:40.38, over half a second ahead of Mateusz Demczyszak.
38-year-old Joanna Wisniewska won the close contest in the women's Discus Throw with 60.48m, ahead of the World Championship fourth placer Zaneta Glanc 59.99m, with Wioletta Potepa back in third at 59.40m.