Czech stars home in on glory in Prague

Czech stars home in on glory in Prague
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Pavel Maslak won the 400m in 45.61 at the Josef Odlozila Memorial in Prague.

Three of the biggest names of Czech athletics shined brightly at the Josef Odlozila Memorial at the Juliska Stadium in Prague on Monday night.

Pavel Maslak, Barbora Spotakova and Jakub Holusa all produced superb performances at this European Athletics Outdoor Premium meeting.

The European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam start four weeks today and the trio are all major gold medal contenders.

Maslak has unfinished business with the championships where he won the 400m gold in Helsinki because two years ago injury ruled out his title defence in Zurich.

But he has never lost his form or consistency and in front of his home fans, he won in 45.61 from Turkey's Yavuz Can (45.71) and Israel's Donald Blair-Sanford (45.95).

Maslak ran a 45.33 at altitude in Potchefstroom in February, a few weeks before he successfully defended his world indoor 400m in Portland, and it would be some story if he triumphed in Amsterdam, a victory which would be his fourth major European gold to go with 2012 and his two indoor successes.

Zurich was a big moment in the career of javelin world record-holder Spotakova as she returned to the championship stage after becoming a mum - and she won gold.

Now she has a season's best to her name after victory on countback after both Poland's Maria Andrejczyk and her reached 63.79m.

Spotakova's series also included throws of 60.21m, 61.38m and 60.77m.

Anyone in the 02 Arena in Prague for last year's European Athletics Indoor Championships will never forget Holusa's golden glory in the 1500m amid such a cacophony of noise and his run back in the city augurs well for the weeks ahead.

As Morocco's Sadik Mikhou won in 3:32.85, Holusa, like Spotakova, also produced his best performance of the year, finishing second in 3:35.15 and moving to second on the European Athletics rankings (just 0.10 behind Germany's Homiyu Tesfaye), with New Zealand's Hamish Carson (3:37.03) in third.

Iceland's Anita Hinriksdottir has held the national 800m record of 2:00.49 for almost three years but she was so close to breaking it on Monday.

Hinriksdottir missed out by just 0.05 as she won in 2:00.54 from India's Tintu Luka (2:00.61) and Great Britain's Alexandra Bell (2:01.67).

In the men's 400m hurdles, Jack Green won in a season's best of 49.18 while Germany's Nadine Hildebrand (13.01) and the Czech Republic's Katerina Cachova (a personal best of 13.05) both looked good in the women's 100m hurdles as they finished just behind Columbia's Brigitte Merlano (12.94).

In the men's 110m hurdles, Germany's Gregor Traber (13.43) beat Hungary's Balazs Baji (13.44), Belarusian Pavel Seliverstau equalled his high jump personal best of 2.26m for victory and Valentin Lavillenie won the pole vault (5.64m).

And as Brazil's Juliana Paula dos Santos won the 3000m steeplechase in an area record (9:38.63), Germany's Maya Rehberg impressed in second with a personal best (9:39.18), the fourth fastest by a European this year, with Mariya Shatalova, of the Ukraine, third in a season's best (9:40.04).