Serbian star Ivana Spanovic produced a dazzling long jump performance on Saturday – in the exact place she hopes to win gold this Sunday.
As the Kombank Arena in Belgrade was officially opened ahead of this week’s European Athletics Indoor Championships in the city, Spanovic could not have asked for a better warm up by stretching her world lead to 6.96m.
Beginning the day with the furthest jump in 2017 of 6.87m, Spanovic notched up the pressure even more on her rivals with a perfect send off for this week as she celebrated victory at the Balkan Indoor Championships.
It was a competition of the highest quality, but which Spanovic left knowing she is in just the right vein of form to bring glory for the hosts as she looks to successfuly defend her European indoor crown.
As Serbia named a team of 11 for the championships, Spanovic beat Greece’s Haido Aleksu (6.49m) and Bulgaria’s Mitkova Milena (6.32m) and said: “For the first time this year I ran off at full momentum and I am pretty happy with how it all looked.”
It was a memorable day at the arena in an opening ceremony featuring Dobromir Karamarinov, President of the Association of Balkan Athletic Federations, Veselin Jevrosimovic, the President of the Serbian Athletics Federation, and Nikola Nikodijevic, the Mayor of Belgrade, before more than 300 athletes from 16 Balkan countries took part in the championships.
At the Euros, Serbia will be looking for medals across all different disciplines, with Asmir Kolasinac, the 2013 shot put champion, Amela Terzic, the multiple European junior and under-23 1500m gold medallist and European decathlon bronze medallist Mihail Dudas in the heptathlon among their major hopes along with Spanovic.
Terzic won on Saturday in 4:13.14 from Romania’s Florina Pierdevara (4:19.17) while Croatia’s Ivan Horvat broke the outright national record for the second time in a week as he showed his fine form for the Europeans.
After clearing 5.72m the previous Saturday, Horvat increased the mark to 5.76m as he beat Greece’s 2014 world indoor champion Kostadinos Filippidis (5.71m).
The Czech Republic will head to Belgrade with high hopes of success after selecting 27 athletes following their national indoor championships in Prague this weekend.
Top of their list for gold will be Pavel Maslak, who is chasing a third successive European indoor crown, and he warmed up for his title bid by winning the men’s 200m on Sunday in a fast 20.57 while 2011 European indoor champion Denisa Rosolova – who runs in the 400m in Belgrade along with double hurdles world champion Zuzana Hejnova – won the women’s 200m in 23.68.
After winning silver in the decathlon at last summer's European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, just four points ahead of Serbian Dudas – Czech multi-eventer Adam Helcelet will be hoping for a podium position in the heptathlon and teammates Tomas Stanek and Ladislav Prasil should be in contention in the shot put.
On Sunday, Prasil won the national title in 20.84m but Stanek did not compete, and on Saturday, there was a fine victory for Petr Svoboda, the 2011 European 60m hurdles champion in Paris, who won the final in 7.55 after running 7.57 in the heats.
The 19.23m Hungary’s Anita Marton produced in the final round of the shot put in Prague brought her European gold and a national record and she confirmed her role as favourite to triumph again in Belgrade with 18.75m to win the national indoor title in Szombathely on Saturday.
And at the Hallensturmer Cup Pole Vault meeting, Poland’s world No. 1 Piotr Lisek won with 5.65m ahead of his pursuit of a first major title.