Europe’s leading clubs to challenge for honours in Brno and Leiria

Anna Mark Helwigh
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Denmark's Anna Mark Helwigh is expected to claim maximum points in the 1500m for Sparta AM

Istanbul-based Fenerbahce will be chasing a fourth successive victory in the women’s division on Saturday (16) when the southern Czech city of Brno stages the European Champions Club Cup U20 Group A.

And as they bid for this success, London-based Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers are back to defend the crown they won in Castellon, Spain last year in the men’s division.

Such is the closeness of this competition, only a matter of points separated the champions from their nearest rivals in 2016. Fenerbahce won by eight points with an overall score of 114.5 ahead of Blackheath & Bromley Harriers, who return to try to narrow the gap – or even overtake their Turkish rivals – this time.

The runners-up from last year have one of the standout names of the event on their team in European U20 200m champion Maya Bruney. The 19-year-old will be contesting the 400m in which she has a lifetime best of 53.17, although she did run a 51.7 leg in the 4x400m.

In the men’s event twelve months ago, Fenerbahce, were beaten by just seven points last time, 123 to 116. They will endeavour to make it a double for the nation as they look to topple the reigning champions.

Hammer thrower Deniz Yaylaci returns for the women when, at 19 last month, she will be competing for the final time. Last year, she brought her team maximum points with victory with 53.10m and with a season’s best of 57.90m - and a lifetime best of 61.39m - she is one of their bankers.

The host nation are represented by AK Olymp Brno while it will a good test for Slovenia’s AD Mass Ljubljana and Lithuania’s Nike Klaipeda after their promotion from Group B.

Denmark’s hopes are carried by Sparta AM and their team includes one of the brightest young steeplechasers in the world in Anna Mark Helwigh, who won the U20 race at the European Champion Clubs Cross Country in February. 

Helwigh has had a fine year, finishing fourth in the 2000m steeplechase at the World U18 Championships in Nairobi, but this time she will be running without barriers. In the 1500m, Helwigh has a personal best of 4:21.47 which makes her the quickest in the field, although the 800m will be tougher for her.

In the two lap event, Helwigh has a lifetime best of 2:11.93 but Gabriela Gajanova will be favoured to deliver maximum points for the home side, having run 2:06.56 this summer.

In the men’s event, Shaftesbury have two of their winners from last year back in their team in Matthew Pagan (400m and 4x400m relay) and George Groom (3000m steeplechase).

But one of the stars of the day is likely to be Belarusian hammer thrower Aliaksandr Shymanovich, who is competing for Portugal’s Sport Lisboa e Benfica.

It has been a summer to remember for Shymanovich, who won silver at the European U20 Championships in Grosseto, and with this 6kg implement, has thrown a PB of 81.73m.

Brno also welcomes Rotterdam-based side PAC and Copenhagen-based club, who both secured promotion into Group A last year.

The European Champions Club Cup U20 Group A will be streamed here.

The European Champions Club Cup U20 Group B will be staged in Leiria, Portugal again on Saturday and Finnish team Tampereen Pyrinto will be out for promotion after finishing a narrow third in 2016.

And in pursuit of the title, it will be a busy day for Jemina Forss, who won the 800m last year.

This time she is competing in the 400m, 1500m and the 4x400m relay, while in the men’s event, AD Mass Ljubljana will start as favourites after their third last year.

The European Champions Club Cup U20 Group B will be streamed here.