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The Balkan Games in transition


Michalis Nikitaridis for IAAF

18 February 2001 – As one of the most ancient regional competitions among countries, the Balkan Games can boast an impressive 79-year-old history. First established in 1929, the event has survived through World and Balkan wars, international conflicts and has been host to many unforgettable moments, when brilliant athletes such as Jolanda Balas, Luciano Susanj, Khristo Markov or Christos Papanikolaou participated in them.

Before the establishment of the World Championships, the Grand Prix series and the numerous annual meetings world-wide, the Balkan Games were a major event on the calendar for athletes from the peninsula and this explains the glory of the games in the past.

Over the past decade, the decline of the championships has become obvious. The top athletes of the region avoid competing in the Games, as they prefer to participate in other, more profitable, competitions. The games no longer feature in the preparation schedule of the Olympic champions from Bulgaria, Romania or Greece.

However this situation would seem to be on the reverse as the National Federations of the Balkan countries are taking up the cause.

The Association of the Balkan Athletic Federation has been upgraded, and top athletes are being encouraged to compete in the Games, which has led to encouraging results.

The Balkan Indoor Championships, held in Pireaus today, were marked by the participation of a record nine nations, and plenty of excellent performances. The Olympic triple jump champion, Tereza Marinova started the season with a 14.54m jump, while Ionela Tirlea made her comeback with a 200m win in 23.43. George Gouset dominated the shot put competition with 19.89m and the European 60m indoor champion Angelos Pavlakakis easily won his race in 6.61.

Yumileidi Kumba, a Cuban who will be training in Greece for the next four years, participated out of scoring and was the best woman shot putter with 19.10m.

Finally, Greek athletes broke three national records. Georgia Tsiliggiri cleared 4.30m in the pole vault to beat Tanya Koleva; Chryssoula Goudenoudi clocked 53.35 to break the 400m record and Michalis Stamatogiannis improved the junior shot put record to 18.00m.