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Young stars line up in Erfurt

Carolina Klüft
(Foto: Kiefner)
[06.07.2005] Around 1000 athletes from 44 countries will travel to Erfurt, Germany, next week for the European Athletics Under 23 Championships on 14-17 July. The leading athletes on the entry lists are Olympic heptathlon champion Carolina Klüft (SWE), who will compete in the long jump, and the Olympic high jump Bronze medallist from the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Baba. The biggest teams come from host nation Germany, France, Poland and Russia.

The men's high jump looks set to be one of the highest quality competitions in Erfurt. Baba will face Pole Michal Bieniek, who has already cleared 2.36m this year; the SPAR European Cup winner from Russia Aleksey Dmitrik; as well as two others who have jumped over 2.30m, the Ukrainian champion Yuriy Krimarenko and the Swede Linus Thörnblad. Four of these five athletes fought hard for the medals two years ago at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Tampere with the top three places going to Baba, Dmitrik and Thörnblad.

The winner of the 2005 SPAR European Cup also starts in the women's high jump - Tatyana Kivimyagi from Russia - and she will be tough to beat for the reigning European Junior champion, Ariane Friedrich from Germany. It will also be tricky for Germany's pole vault representative at the SPAR European Cup, Fabian Schulze. He will face the Ukrainian Vladyslav Revenko who has already cleared 5.80m this year.

As expected there is a strong field for the men's decathlon. Host nation favourite Christopher Hallmann will have three athletes to contend with who like him have scored over 8000 points. They are the Russians Aleksey Drozdov and Aleksey Sysoyev and well as Mikk Pahapill from Estonia who was the surprise winner of the European Cup Combined Events Super League last week and will start as favourite.

There is also a top quality field in the women's heptathlon with five women who have a personal best over 6000 points. Laurien Hoos from the Netherlands who finished ninth in Götzis earlier in the year and has a best of 6219 points is the hot favourite to take Gold. However, the German athletes Lilli Schwarzkopf and Christine Schulz however won't be letting her have it all her own way and will also be fighting for the last remaining place for the heptathlon in the German team for the World Championships in Helsinki.

Olympic heptathlon champion Carolina Klüft will be concentrating on the long jump in Erfurt and is the reigning champion having won the title two years ago in Bydgoszcz. Her most likely challenger is the Russian Yuliya Zinovyeva who has shown good form this season, having leapt over 6.70m three times. Also on the start list is the woman who finished third in this winter's European Athletics Indoor Championships, Adina Anton of Romania.

There should be some close battles in the women's sprints. In the women's 100m the recent Mediterranean Games champion Veronique Mang (FRA) will face the European Indoor Bronze medallist María Karastamáti (GRE). In the 400m the Russian Olga Zaytseva, who has already clocked 50.06 seconds this year, will take on Christine Ohuruogu who ran in the Olympic 4x400m final for Great Britain last year. Great Britain also boasts the big favourite in the men's 400m, Robert Tobin who clocked 45.01 in June.

In the distance races the names to look out for are Yevgeniya Zolotova (RUS) and Lucia Klocová (SVK) in the women's 800m, World Junior champion Nelya Neporadna (UKR) in the women's 1500m, defending champion Mounir Yemmouni (FRA) in the men's 1500m, and two Silver medallists from two years ago in Bydgoszcz, Great Britain's Mohamed Farah (5000m) and Poland's Radoslaw Poplawski (3000m steeplechase).

Two German throwers will face tough competition from Russian women in their bid to win the title in front of their home crowd. The German hammer record holder Betty Heidler will face the Russian Yekaterina Khoroshikh and discus thrower Ulrike Giesa, the European Junior champion two years ago, takes on World Junior Silver medallist Darya Pishchalnikova.

Two other strong favourites from the host nation are Tina Klein in the 100m hurdles and Petra Lammert in the shot while Italy will be looking in particular at triple jumper Simona La Mantia to bring home Gold. La Mantia took the Silver two years ago in Bydgoszcz.

The Croatian team features the very promising 1.98m tall Edis Elkasevic. He recently threw close to 21 metres in the shot (20.94m) and also has a discus best of 60.54m He will compete in both events in Erfurt.

Finland will be counting on their javelin throwers to bring home medals, boasting the only two athletes in the field who have thrown over 80 metres, reigning European Junior champion Teemu Wirkkala and Tero Järvenpää.

One of the first finals of the Championships could also be one of the high points. In the men's 20km walk two of Europe's most talented young walkers will battle it out - Vladimir Parvatkin from Russia and Andriy Yurin from the Ukraine. They have both gone under the magical 1:20 barrier this year and already belong to the world's elite.