Cyprus might be hosting the lowest category in the European Team Championships to be held this weekend (19-20), but that does not mean an inferior quality of athletes, quite the contrary, a number of accomplished track and field competitors; athletes who either took part in Olympiads or have qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Games. Out of the 18 countries to be represented over the weekend at Limassol’s Tsireion, seven of them earned the right to participate in the Tokyo Olympics with a total of 16 athletes. We’ll be seeing ten of them in Cyprus.
What follows is a presentation of each team’s strengths, based on their Rio Olympics presence and July’s Tokyo Games. We’ve also added the athletes likely to secure qualification up to and including the last assigned day (June 29th). We’ll be taking national teams alphabetically (Latin numbers), to make things clearer.
Over the past few years, Albania’s top athlete is Luiza Gega, over the 3 thousand meters steeplechase. In 2016, Gega won the silver medal in the Amsterdam European Championships, but failed to go through in the Rio final, ranking 16th with a time of 9:58.49. Since then she’s come a long way in her running time, clocking a personal best of 9:19.53, with a season’s best of 9:29/93 and will be going after a much better result in Tokyo. Gega will also be running the 5000m in Limassol. It is quite remarkable that the Albanian athlete holds her country’s national records in the 800, 1500, 3000, 5000 and 10000 meters, the half marathon, the marathon, without of course mentioning the 3.000m steeplechase. Izmir Smajlaj was another Albanian athlete who took part in the Rio Olympics, ranking 21st in the long jump qualification with 7.72m. European Ιndoor champion in 2017, Smajlaj has jumped 8 meters 16 this year and will be aiming for the Olympic qualification of 8.22m in the Cyprus Games.
It is highly difficult for a small state such as ANDORRA to produce a top athlete. But Pol Moya Betriu did achieve participation in the Rio Olympics, without however managing to go through from the qualification round, clocking 1:48.88. Betriu has run the distance in 1:49.56 this year, with his personal best of 1:46.96 from 2019.
ARMENIA was represented by five athletes, one man and four women in Rio, but the Tokyo outlook is looking bleak so far. In the 2016 Brazil Olympics, Armenia was represented by Gayane Chiloyian in the 200 meters, Diana Khubeseryan also in the 200 meters, Lilit Harutyunyan in the 400 meters hurdles, Amaliya Sharoyan in the long jump and Levom Aghasyan in the triple jump, without notable results. No Armenian track and field athletes have yet to qualify for Tokyo, with Aghasyan, being the closest possibility. Representing Armenia in the Limassol games will be Aghasyan with a lifetime best of 17 meters 08 and a season’s best of 16.55m and Chiloyan in the 200 and 400 meters, with no registered times this year,
AZERBAIJAN was represented by four track and field athletes in Rio-Hayle Ibrahimov (5 thousand meters), Evans Kiplagat (marathon), Nazim Babayev (triple jump) and Hanna Skydan (hammer throw), without success. Babayev and Skydan will also be in Tokyo, but none of them will be taking part in the Limassol championships as Azerbaijan is sending the smallest team with just 8 athletes out of 11 disciplines!
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA prides in its world class athlete over the 800 meters, Amel Tuka, who took silver medal in the 2019 Doha World Championships and will also be in Tokyo. Tuka however will not be joining his team in Cyprus unlike Bosnia’s 2nd top class athlete, Mesut Pezer who will be taking part in the shot put final, a highly anticipated quality event. Pezer, standing two meters tall, has a personal best of 21.48m (2019) and a season’s best 20.78m indoors.
CYPRUS was represented by 7 athletes in the Rio Olympics track and field events, three of them, going through to the final. Kyriakos Ioannou was 7th in the high jump, Milan Trajkovic, also came in 7th in the 110 meters hurdles and Apostolos Parellis, who ranked eighth in the discus. The rest of the Cypriot track and field athletes fared well, namely Eleni Artymata in the 200 meters, Ramona Papaioannou in the 100 and 200 meters, Demetris Chondrokoukis in the high jump and Leontia Kallenou, also in the high jump. Our athletes distinguished performance in international events over the past few years has led to the Tokyo qualification of Apostolos Parellis (5th in the Doha World Championships), Milan Trajkovic (European champion over 60 meters hurdles indoors) and Eleni Artymata, (400 meters), considered to be the best female Cypriot athlete in the 21st century. All three of them will be vying for top spot at the European Teams Championship, with Cyprus having high hopes of more athletes securing participation for the Tokyo Olympics.
GEORGIA might not have been represented in the Rio track and field events and none of its athletes have yet to qualify for Tokyo, but all this might change in Limassol. Bachana Khorava is looking to secure a place for next months’ Olympics in the long jump, having a personal best of 8.25m and a season’s best of 7.88m, with the qualification standard being 8.22m. Giorgi Mujaridze is also looking for a Tokyo place in the shot put, with a season’s best of 20.20m, a personal best of 21.21m and the qualification standard being 21.10m. The teams’ championships competition in Limassol might well push them through to the Rio Olympics.
In the Rio Games, LUXEMBOURG was handed two honorary places in the 800 meters, with Charles Grethen and Charline Mathias. Αll that has changed however, as the Duchy now boasts a world class athlete. Shot putter Bob Bertemes has a personal best of 22 meters 22, having thrown 21.71m this year and is preparing for the Tokyo challenge, without yet recording any notable success. Bertemes will also be looking to add points to the Luxemburg tally in the discus throw, with 61.06m this year.
MOLDOVA has a strong throwing team, particularly through the Marghiev family in the hammer throw, Serghei securing 10th place in Rio and his older sister Zalina Petrivskaya 5th in Rio and 4th at the Doha World Championships, while the eldest Marina had also participated in Rio! All three were born in Vladikavkaz and train with their father Soslan. Moldova took part in the Rio games with 9 track and field athletes, out of which 7 were in throwing events! Five Moldavian athletes have so far booked their place for Tokyo and four of them will be competing in Cyprus, except Dimitriana Surdu in the shot put. Serghei Marghiev will be taking part in the hammer throw (PB 78.72, SB 78.21) with his sister Zalina Marghieva Petrivskaya taking part in the same event (PB 74.70, SB 74.20). Andrian Mardare will be competing in the javelin, having the fifth longest throw in the world this year, with 86.66m, his personal best. Mardare will also be taking part in the shot put. Marathon runner Lilia Fisicovici, participating in the Rio Olympics and also having qualified for Tokyo, will help her country in the 3000 and 5000 meters, with good performances.
NORTH MACEDONIA does not have any top class athletes internationally, but Drita Islami stands out, having ran in the 400 meters hurdles at the Rio Olympics. Islami will be competing in a host of events at the Limassol Games, including the 200 and 400 meters flat, the 400 meters hurdles as well as both relays.
The MONTENEGRO have yet to secure a place in the track and field events of the Tokyo Olympics, but two of its athletes will be looking to change that, fighting right to the very end, either through qualification or a world ranking position. Danijel Furtula has thrown 65.59 in the discus (with qualification at 66 meters), while Marija Vukovic has jumped 1.93 this year (qualification being 1.96). Both are seeking a way to Tokyo through Cyprus. Shot putter Tomas Djurovic will be seeking to feed off the high quality competition, having a personal and season’s best of 20 meters 60 (qualification 21.10m).
The best known and top SAN MARINO athlete is high jumper Eugenio Rossi, having participated in the Rio Olympics. Tokyo qualification is tough with his PB being 2.27, his season’s best at 2.18 and qualification at 2.33. He is determined to be competitive in Limassol.
Perhaps the strongest athletics force taking part in Third League of the European Team Championships is SERBIA. Unfortunately, the country’s top athlete, long jumper Ivana Spanovic, with a bronze medal from the Rio Olympics and a total of 11 medals at major events, will not be taking part in the Limassol Games. In Rio, the Serbian track and field team was represented by two athletes, but so far just two athletes have qualified for Tokyo, Ivana Spanovic and Armin Sinancevic in the shot put, who will also not be travelling to Cyprus. Out of those who did take part in the Rio Olympics, two are closest to Tokyo qualification and will be competing in Limassol. They are Dragana Tomasevic in the discus (SB 60.24, PB 63.63, qualification standard 63.50) and Asmir Kolasinac in the shot put (SB 20.70, PB 21.58, qualification standard 21.10). Also looking for Tokyo qualification are long jumpers Lazar Anic (SB 7.91, PB 8.15, qualification standard 8.22) and Milica Gardasevic (SB 6.59, PB 6.64, qualification standard 6.82).
* Pictured here are the Moldovan top throwers Serghei Marghiev, his sister Zalina Petrivskaya and Andrian Mardare.