Lillefosse bidding for two titles at the European Athletics U18 Championships

Pal Haugen Lillefosse
Organisers

Norway's Pal Haugen Lillefosse will be looking to win the pole vault title at the second edition of the European Athletics U18 Championships in Gyor, Hungary in July. Photo credit: Eirik Førde / friidrett.no

It has almost become customary in recent age-group championships for a Norwegian athlete to attempt an unusual combination of events.

We saw Karsten Warholm win silver medals in both the decathlon and 400m flat at the 2015 European Athletics U20 Championships and Jakob Ingebrigtsen contested the 1500m, 5000m and 3000m steeplechase at the 2017 European Athletics U20 Championships. He won gold medals in the latter two events after falling in a tactical 1500m final.

But not to be outdone is pole vaulter-cum-sprinter Pal Haugen Lillefosse who has entered the 100m and pole vault at the European Athletics U18 Championships which begin in Gyor, Hungary tomorrow morning. He begins as the outstanding favourite for the pole vault title by virtue of a recent 5.45m clearance in Mannheim, Germany and he is also the second fastest on paper in the 100m with 10.55.

"I'm really excited about the competition, there are a lot of great competitors here and I'm just ready to give everything I have and hopefully it takes me very far and very high," said Lillefosse at the pre-event press conference.

The only complication is the pole vault qualifying takes place on the same day as the 100m final but Lillefosse, who leads the European U18 lists by sixteen centimetres, can almost certainly afford to vault sparingly in the qualifying round. He will be looking to win his second title in Gyor in the space of twelve months after winning the European Youth Olympic Festival last year.

"Last year I was at the European Youth Olympic Festival and it was an OK result,” said Lillefosse, who cleared 5.00m last year to win the title. Not only has the 16-year-old improved his lifetime best to 5.45m since then - and 5.46m during the indoor season - Lillefosse is much more consistent as well as much improved.

“This year, I've been jumping more times around my PB so I'm in better shape this year than last year. I'm really excited to see how I can jump in such a big event and with such big pressure. There are good athletes competing against me and I think it will be a close fight against everyone. I'm really excited to see how I can do."

Vicente in a confident mood on her return to Gyor  

In the space of thirteen days last July, Spain’s Maria Vicente won the heptathlon title at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Nairobi before winning gold in the triple jump at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Gyor. Vicente has a busy schedule ahead of her as she has entered both events.

"I'm feeling very good for this championships, I've trained very hard and I don't worry about this level of championships. Here it's very important and I want to improve my marks and get a good result like I did in Nairobi," said Vicente.

Like Lillefosse, Vicente is a brilliant all-rounder. Not only is she ranked top of the world and European U18 lists in the heptathlon, Vicente is also ranked inside the top three at European U18 level in the long jump, triple jump and the 100m hurdles.

Vicente was joined at the press conference by teammate and namesake Maria Gonzalez who also assisted with the translating. Gonzalez, who is also contesting the triple jump, offered some sage advice for performing well in a championship environment.

"I have very great expectations at this championships; I come very happy and I want to do my best and take a good result. I will be very relaxed and I want to enjoy the competition; I think this is the best thing if you want to do your best and to improve your marks," she said.

Two Hungarian athletes also attended the pre-event press conference and both of them will be making their championship debuts. It will be quite an occasion for 200m runner Virag Simon as she lives and trains in Gyor.

"It's a big challenge for me. I'm extremely happy to be chosen to compete here. I am thinking about the Olympics [in the future] but it's one step at a time. I will give my best in order to succeed in front of my my home crowd," she said.

Her teammate Hanna Repassy will be competing in the 800m. "I'm really excited to compete in front of my family and friends who are here to support me. I will give the best possible result to make them happy and to make my nation happy," she said.