Rising star Maryna Bekh confirmed her vast potential by soaring out to 6.93m to win the women's long jump at the Ukrainian Championships in Lutsk, a four-day competition which came to an end on Sunday (19).
Bekh, the European junior bronze medallist in 2013 and world junior finalist in 2014, added 15cm to her previous personal best of 6.78m, which she set at the age of 16 back in 2013.
Now 20, she posted her breakthrough effort in the second round of Friday’s competition, her leap of 6.93m a personal best and Olympic standard. She confirmed that she is in the greatest shape of her career by going out to 6.80m in the fourth round and 6.88m in the fifth, the latter aided by a +3.0m/s wind.
“We were very focused preparing for the Olympic year,” said Bekh, explaining her breakthrough performance. “All my training velocity, power and lifting tests grew considerably. I increased my approach from 17 to 19 steps and it was very important to find new rhythm and to cope with scaled-up speed on the board.”
Bekh also believes that there is more to come.
“Certainly I would like to overcome the seven-metre mark as soon as possible but it’s much more important to consolidate 6.80-6.90m jumps and then make another step further,” said Bekh, who will compete at the European Championships in Amsterdam next month.
Two-time Paralympic Games champion in the F12 (visually impared) category, Oksana Zubkovska, surprised with second place, also posting an Olympic standard of 6.70m in her sixth attempt. The 34-year-old beat Anna Kornuta, who finished the competition with the same result after having only one successful jump in the first round.
On the men’s side, Serhiy Nykyforov missed the Olympic standard by four centimetres despite winning the event with an 8.18m jump in the last round, an effort boosted by a 2.2m/s wind. Nevertheless, he achieved 8.11m in his first attempt with a legal wind to improve his outdoor PB by a massive 36cm.
Two more male long jumpers landed over the eight-metre mark. Taras Neledva was second with 8.11m (+3.0m/s) and 2008 Olympic triple jump finalist, Viktor Kuznetsov, leapt 8.05m for bronze.
Ruslana Tsykhotska jumped 14.41m to take gold in the women’s triple jump but 2011 world champion Olha Saladukha, who already has the qualifying standard for Rio, missed the event while continuing her recovery from a back injury.
Okuneva edges Levchenko in high jump
Yuliya Levchenko fought against a slight knee injury but was able to improve her personal best by three centimeres when clearing 1.95m on her first attempt, the highest jump in the world by an U20 athlete this year.
“The World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz are my priority as that is my category’s competition, but I really had the goal to reach Rio as well for my first experience as a senior Olympian," said Levchenko. "Now I’m aiming to cure my knee injury and to be full healthy competing at the major events.”
The teenager's jump was also a national U20 and U23 record but it wasn't good enough to take the title.
In spite of her great performance, Levchenko was beaten by the experienced Oksana Okuneva, who cleared 1.95m only on the third attempt but was then successful over 1.97m at the first try, equalling what was then the world-leading mark, before bringing the bar down three times at what would have been a personal best 2.00m.
Another young star to shine was 2015 world youth championships bronze medallist Alina Shukh, who in the absence of Ukraine's strongest female multi-eventers scored 6099 points in the women's heptathlon using senior implements to top the 2016 world U20 list.
During the competition Shukh, 17, cleared 1.92m in the high jump and improved her personal bests in the long jump to 6.15m and in the javelin to 51.52m. She also clocked 14.72 for 100m hurdles, threw 12.94m in the shot put and finished with a 2:17.68 800m.
In the throws, Nataliya Semenova ruled the women's discus field with a best of 62.41m, while Mykyta Nesterenko won the men's title with 59.88m. Hanna Hatsko-Fedusova threw 60.12m to win the women's javelin, with Dmytro Kosynskyy firing the spear 81.10m to win the men's event. Iryna Novozhylova confirmed her Rio standard in the women's hammer with a best throw of 71.00m.
Relay women return to form
There were several strong performances in the women's sprints. All four members of Ukraine's 4x100m team which took bronze medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games confirmed their ambitions for Rio de Janeiro in the individual disciplines in Lutsk.
Nathaliya Pohrebnyak completed a golden double when winning 100m in 11.11, despite running into a 2.2m/s wind, and 200m in 22.76. Mariya Ryemyen finished third in both finals with 11.50 and 23.45 respectively behind Olesya Povkh, who clocked 11.30 in the 100m, and Yelizaveta Bryzgina, who ran 23.24 in 200m final.
"All the girls are drawing into relay practices," said the head coach of women's relay team, Kostyantyn Rurak. "Unfortunately, Khrystyna Stuy was injured at the Rome Diamond League but we hope for her recovery soon as we’re full of ambition to shine again at the highest world level."
Serhiy Smelyk was fastest in the men's 200m with a winning time of 20.40.
Former world finalist Anna Titimets faced strong opposition in women's 400m hurdles from 2015 European U23 finalist Olena Kolesnychenko and semi-finalist Viktoriya Tkachuk, but repelled their challenge to win in 55.00. Kolesnychenko booked her flight to Rio by finishing second in a personal best of 55.48, with Tkachuk third in 55.96.
In the women's 400m, the gold medal went to Olha Bibik in 51.69 ahead of Yuliya Olishevska, 51.70, and 2014 European silver medallist Olha Zemlyak, who ran 51.89. Vitaliy Butrym clocked 45.85 to win the men's title over one lap of the track.
Nataliya Lupu broke two minutes for the first time this summer when taking second place in the 800m in 1:59.70, but was well beaten by the 2014 European 1500m bronze medallist, Nataliya Pryshchepa, who set a personal best of 1:59.08.
Roman Yarko improved his personal best to 1:46.80 to win the men's 800m. Mariya Shatalova ran 9:44.25 to win the women's 3000m steeplechase, while Vadym Slobodenyuk clocked 8:36.68 to win the men's race.
Liudmyla Iakusheva for the IAAF