Lalova looking to finish her unfinished business in Helsinki
|Bulgarian sprinter Ivet Lalova addresses the media
at the offical European Athletics and Helsinki 2012
Local Organising Committee press conference
Lalova's ambitions of winning a world medal a year after finishing one place off the podium at the Athens 2004 Games ended traumatically on June 14, 2005, three months after she had won the European indoor 200m title, when she broke her femur in an accidental collision with another athlete while warming up for a meeting in Athens.
"I had to watch the World Championships on television from hospital," the 28-year-old recalled here today at the pre-championship media conference at Helsinki's City Hall.
"That's why it is so special to me to be able to come back to Helsinki and do what I could not do in 2005. Winning this title has been my dream for many years."
Last year in Daegu, Lalova was the only European sprinter to reach the women's 100m final at the World Championships – she finished seventh in 11.27sec – and she feels that competing in Helsinki will be an important part of her planning as she targets a place in another global final at the Olympics starting on July 27.
"First of all I think competing here is a matter of respect for European Athletics," she said. "This year is the Olympic Games, and we have to show the world that the athletics in Europe is at a really high level. And I think that from here we will show future Olympic champions and finalists."
Lalova describes her recovery from injury, which caused at least one medical expert to judge that her elite career was over, as her "biggest medal".
"After my injury I came back quite quickly," she said. "I missed the whole of 2006, but I was back in 2007 and looking towards the World Championships and Olympics."
She reached the quarter-finals at the 2007 Osaka World Championships, and the semi-finals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, finishing seventh in 11.51. She was in what she describes as "a difficult position."
"Sometimes you get stuck in your mind with the times, when you have in your mind the idea 'Maybe I can never run fast again'," she said. "It's a big problem. I was stuck at that level and couldn't get any faster."
So, early last year, she underwent a personal upheaval.
"I decided I had to change everything," she said. "I changed my lifestyle, I began training in Rieti in Italy with a new coach, Roberto Bonomi. I felt like I had a new fire inside me.
"When you change something, you get results almost immediately. I moved to Italy about three months before the season last year, and ran some good times."
|European javelin champion Linda Stahl of Germany.
So Lalova is here and seeking a title which she will have to dispute with, among others, Germany's defending champion Verena Sailer and the Ukrainian pair of Oleysha Povh and Mariya Ryemyen.
Her preparations earlier this year were disrupted by what she describes as "a horrible start" to the season when she pulled a hamstring. But a fifth place at the Rome Diamond League meeting on May 31 indicated she was back on track – and she is now hellbent on ensuring that the Olympic Stadium track in Helsinki yields her the medal she missed seven years ago.
Stahl ready for the tough challenge
Meanwhile Linda Stahl of Germany is gearing up to defend the javelin title she won, to general surprise, in Barcelona, when a personal best of 66.81 metres proved too much for her team-mate Christina Obergfoll, the Olympic bronze medallist, to overcome.
Obergfoll is back for revenge in a field where her season's best of 67.04 leads the field.
"I am looking forward to the competition with my team-mate Christina," Stahl said. "She is very strong and I think she is the top favourite this year. It will be hard to beat her.
"Goldie Sayers has thrown 64.70 this season so she will be one of the girls in the medals. We will see in the final, but there will be six or seven throwers who will have a chance to win. Everyone has to be strong on that day."