Marian Oprea (ROM) winning the 2000 World Junior Triple Jump title (Getty Images) © Copyright

58th Balkan Games – Report

The 58th edition of the Balkan Games was held in Thiva, Greece on 12 – 13 July 2003 in the new stadium of this small city although most of the top Balkan athletes weren’t there, about 250 athletes from 9 countries had the possibility to compete and produce some significant performances.

The Balkan Games was first held in 1929, in Athens, as an unofficial competition. One year later Athens hosted the first official championships, which have continued ever since with the exception of some breaks during the after War II period. For more than seven decades, the Balkan Games reflect not only the developments of the sport itself, but also the political and social arrangements taken place in the Balkan Peninsula.

Being one of the oldest regional athletics competitions, the Games reached the zenith of the glory in 60s and 70s, when some legends of the sport established multiple wins. Olympic Champions and world record holders such as Iolanda Balas, Viorica Viscopelanou, Lia Manoliou, Jelica Pavlicic, Luciano Susani and Christos Papanikolaou gave a unique glamour to the Games.

During this period, the winning of the overall team classification was a prime objective and the Games were seen as an important athletics event for the winning countries.

Later, the development of athletics worldwide and the emergence of new competitions and meetings led some of the top Balkan athletes to switch their interest to other events. The stars of the area stopped competing in the games, giving the opportunity to others, lesser know athletes to climb to fame.

During the last decade, the Balkan countries have explored the possibilities to revitalize the competition. Several incentives have been set in parallel with the participation of the new countries emerging after the political arrangements in the area.

2003 competition

On the first day of the Games (12 July), Romanian Bogdan Tarus won the Long Jump with a leap of 8.02m, while his teammate Stefan Vasilache cleared 2.30m a performance which dominated the High Jump. Second in this competition was Lambros Papakostas, Greece’s 1995 and 1997 World Indoor championships silver medallist, who was attempting a comeback after three years of absence from the in-field. Papakostas jumped 2.21m, while Dragutin Topic placed a surprisingly lowly third, with 2.18.

In the women’s Triple Jump, Christina Nikola (ROM), jumped 13.86m for the win, while Dragan Peric of Serbia and Montenegro set the men’s Shot flying to 20.48m, enough to defeat the Romanian George Guset, who was second with 19.29.

Greece’s hammer thrower Alexandros Papadimitriou, the European bronze medallist last year, improved his season’s  best to 79.19 m., while another Greek athlete Chrysa Goudenoudi equalled her own 400 m Hurdles national record, winning the race in 56.85 seconds.

Of the other Greek athletes on-form on the first day were the young sprinter Aristidis Petridis who set a personal best of 10.29 for the 100m, and Angelos Pavlakakis who clocked 10.31 in the same race, while in the women’s Javelin Savva Lyka threw 60.00m to set a personal best.

On Sunday afternoon (13 July), Romania’s Marian Oprea jumped 17.24 m in the men’s Triple Jump to defeat Bulgarian Rotislav Dimitrov who jumped 16.57m.

Romania’s World record holder Mihaella Melinte won the women’s Hammer with a throw of 71.25m, while Greece’s Alexandra Papageorgiou placed second with a national record of 66.66m.
Cristina Casandra easily won the women’s 3000m Steeplechase with 9:51.16, and a Greek thrower, Irene Terzoglou, dominated the women’s Shot with 18.21m.

Venelina Veneva cleared 1.95m to win the women’s High Jump, beating Turkey’s Candeger Cilincer, who cleared 1.92 m., but also Romanian Oana Panteleimon and Moldovan Ina Gliznuta, who both jumped 1.84 m.

Bulgaria’s Ilian Efremov was the best in the men’s Pole Vault with 5.62m, while Anastassios Goussis improved his season’s best to 20.53 to win the men’s 200m race.