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Athens, GreeceFormer European champion Periklis Iakovakis re-discovered his world class form after spending almost three years behind the curtain to win his 15th successive Greek 400m Hurdles title.
The 2008 Olympics finalist ran a season best 49.04 in qualifying and 49.19 in the final on Saturday (16), the second and final day of the Hellenic Championships held at the Olympic Stadium under warm and windy conditions.
"Last season, for an inexplicable reason, everything went wrong and I felt the pressure running all over me! But at the turn of the tide I returned to my usual standards," Iakovakis said.
"I decided to push hard in the morning because according to the weather forecast the wind would ease down and give what would be left in tank in the final. That’s why I ran faster in heat, a 'morning personal best’, but it seems that I am strong enough to run equally fast twice in a day."
On his (fifth) European Championships and (fourth) Olympic Games ambitions Iakovakis said: "A place in the top-six is my initial target and I will be looking forward for anything better than that. It’s still too early to talk about the Olympics. First things first."
Triple Jump 'P’ power gear up for Helsinki and London
European U23 Triple Jump champion, Voula Papachristou easily won the Long Jump in 6.60m but found herself second despite a solid 14.58m jump in Triple Jump. The winner was Mediterranean Champ Athanasia Perra with a new personal best of 14.71m.
"In my fourth attempt I landed beyond 15 metres but it was foul. I feel I have 15 metres in my legs. I’ve done it in training and hopefully I will do it in real competition when it matters most," Perra said.
Papachristou, who is coached by Georgi Pomashki, the mentor of 1999 World Triple Jump champion Voula Tsiamita, will concentrate on the Triple Jump at summer’s major Championships.
"I’d like to try the Long Jump as well but my coach objects. Today it was tough for me because I fouled in the first two rounds and I trailed back in third place until the last attempt. It was quite encouraging that I managed to respond at my last jump with an effort that is often enough for a medal at major events."
Although ranked third, Niki Panetta, was far from being characterised as unhappy. With 14.50m she clinched a spot on the Hellenic Olympic team.
"My adductor was hurting and probably I missed some centimetres because of that. The swirling winds caused us a lot of problems in the run up."
A new sprint star is rising
The surprise of the Championships, which were held on the eve of the crucial Greek elections, came from 21-year-old sprinter Maria Belibasaki. At first she bettered her 100m personal best from 11.98 to 11.34 and on Saturday she started in qualifying with a personal best, 23.65, in her favourite event, the 200m and continued with an even faster 23.28 in the final. She met the Olympic qualifying standard in both events.
Belibasaki lives in Siteia a small town of 8000 inhabitants located at the far west side of Crete and has to travel everyday almost 160km on the way and back from Ierapetra, where a proper training ground exists.
"Everything has changed for me in the last 12 months. I quit my University exams, returned to Crete and spend eight hours per day on training sessions. I am almost broke and the only person who stands by my side is my trainer Michalis Goniotakis."
"I expected a sub-23 seconds time in the 200 so now I have to re-set that target for the European Champs. I will keep on working on the 200 metres, the event I will try at the Olympic Games."
Athina Koini, a close friend and training partner of Meseret Defar, broke the national U23 record in the 3000m Steeplechase on Friday with a time of 9:59.36 and on Saturday she bettered the 5000m U23 mark with 16:21.99.
Below-par Chondrokoukis beats Baniotis and Topic
World Indoor champion Dimtris Chondrokoukis cleared 2.25m to secure victory over Kostas Baniotis (2nd in 2.22m) and Serbian veteran Dragutin Topic (2.18m). Chondrokoukis had three failures in 2.31m.
"I was in good shape but I didn’t prove it on the track. Now I will focus on my Olympics preparations and maybe I will make one more appearance before London," said Chondrokoukis, who decided to pass the European Championships.
World Championships Pole Vault finalist Nikol Kyriakopoulou sailed over 4.50m and had three failures at 4.60m as surprisingly did another Cretian girl, Stella-Iro Ledaki. For 24-year-old Ledaki a white flag at 4.50m meant she will join Kyriakopoulou, who beat her on count-back, in London.
In the men’s Pole Vault Kostas Filippidis improved his season best with 5.65m and had three unsuccessful attempts for a new national record at 5.76m.
"The headwind made my life hard. We asked to move the mat on the opposite side but the judges rejected our proposal. I feel very strong this season and I can at least better my own record. At the Olympics I will seek for a place in the final. Anything better will be most welcomed. You’ll never know how high you have to jump for a medal. In London even 6.00 metres won’t be enough for gold."
Filandra edging closer to the two minutes barrier
800m specialist Eleni Filandra was the last one to enter the Hellenic Olympic team after setting a new personal best in 2:00.44.
"It was the first time I celebrated after crossing the finish line because I knew the qualifying standard was within my grasp," Filandra said.
Elsewhere, 60m Hurdles World Junior record holder, Kostas Douvalidis finished in 13.47 in the 110m Hurdles close to his own recently broken national record (13.41). 200m European U23 Champion Lykourgos-Stefanos Tsakonas from Sparta came close to breaking his own national U23 record (20.52) finishing in 20.55. The strong headwind (-1.3) was definitely not at his side. Lykourgos-Stefanos’ brother Giorgos Tsakonas, was second in the Long Jump with a wind-assisted 8.04m. Louis Tsatoumas, fourth with 7.73m, injured his biceps and retired after two rounds. Javelin thrower Spyros Lebesis, No. 17 in the world this season with 83.02m, easily won with 82.25m.
Vasileios Georgiotis for the IAAF
Leading Results: MEN - 100m (1.4): Kalamaras 10.50 PB 200m (-1.3): Tsakonas L. St. 20.55 400m: Routas 46.58 PB 800m/1500m: Dimitrakis 1:48.99/3:41.77 PB 5000m: Gkelaouzos 14:44.87 3000m Steeplechase: Mavridopoulos 9:10.08 110m Hurdles (1.1): Douvalidis 13.47 400m Hurdles: Iakovakis 49.19 (49.04 heat) High Jump: Chondrokoukis 2.25, Baniotis 2.22 Pole Vault: Filippidis 5.65 Long Jump: Diamantaras 8.09 (2.5) (8.01/1.6), Tsakonas G. 8.04 (3.1) Triple Jump: Tsiamis 16.63 (0.9) Shot Put: Stamatoyannis 19.65 Discus Throw: Tremos 59.97 Hammer Throw: Papadimitriou 69.85 Javelin Throw: Lebesis 82.25