When Alina Talay soared to the European title in the 100m hurdles in Helsinki in 2012, even she might not have thought she would be favourite for the title again six years later.
But the 29-year-old Belarusian is proving this is the case after another superb performance to rubberstamp why she is top of the European lists - and the one to beat at the European Championships in Berlin which begin in less than 50 days’ time.
Talay, who leads the European lists with her national record of 12.41 from St. Polten in Austria last month, was victorious again, this time on a momentous evening in Minsk at the newly renovated Dinamo Stadium on Friday (22). Talay helped her nation to victory on home soil in a four-way match with 160 points from Ukraine and a Balkan select side - both with 138 points - and a Baltic team with 92 points.
In front of a 15,000 crowd, Talay was one of the stars of the evening with a brilliant run to triumph in 12.50 - the second fastest time of her career - from teammate and reigning world U20 champion Elvira Herman in 12.78.
This pair are first and second on the 2018 European lists – Herman, 21, has a best of 12.69 this year, a national U23 record – and for Talay, the podium once more awaits when Berlin co-hosts the first multi-sport European Championships with Glasgow in August.
Another athlete with high expectations in Berlin later this summer is reigning European javelin champion Tatiana Khaladovich. Khaladovich leads the 2018 European lists with a national record of 67.47m from the Bislett Games in Oslo and she notched up another victory, winning by more than six metres with 64.54m.
On a memorable evening for the hosts, European U20 champion Maksim Nedasekau cleared 2.30m in the high jump and Pavel Bareisha threw 77.37m to win the hammer ahead of Ivan Tikhon, 41, who threw 75.77m in his first competition since the 2016 Olympics.
Svetlana Kudzelich was first in the 3000m steeplechase in 9:47.92, ahead of Israel’s Adva Cohen in a national record of 9:48.48, and Nastassia Mironchyk-Ivanova won the long jump with 6.74m.
Ukraine’s Hrystyna Stuy and Bulgaria’s Ivet Lalova-Collio could hardly be separated in the 100m, both recording the same time of 11.30 - with 0.005 giving the nod to Stuy - but it was a different story in the men’s 200m as Stuy’s teammate Serhiy Smelyk was the clear winner in 20.81.
And to round off the night, there was a European all-time best in the mixed 4x400m relay as Ukraine won in 3:17.05, with the Baltic team second in 3:18.10.
Kozak and Halasz impress at the Hungarian Championships
The Hungarian Championships in Szekesfehervar produced some fine results on Saturday (23) when the 100m hurdles made the headlines again as Luca Kozak ran a national U23 record.
Kozak, who was 22 on the first day of this month - and won bronze at last year’s European U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz - triumphed in 12.86 ahead of Greta Kerekes in a lifetime best of 12.95.
World bronze medallist looked Balazs Baji also looked sharp as he won the 110m hurdles in a season’s best of 13.39. European U23 champion Bence Halasz won the hammer with an excellent throw of 78.22m and world indoor champion Anita Marton also won the shot put with 17.76m.
Kirt beats Rohler again in Kuortane
It may be short of the distances required to win a medal in the javelin in Berlin but in Kuortane, Finland, on Saturday, Estonia’s Magnus Kirt beat Germany’s Olympic champion Thomas Rohler for the second time this month.
Kirt won with a throw of 84.69m from Rohler in second with 83.17m followed by the Czech duo Jakub Vadlejch (81.39m) and Vitezslav Vesely (80.20m), the 2013 world champion.
At the Estonian Gala in Tallinn on Saturday, Martin Kupper’s 63.72m saw him beat Gerd Kanter (61.51m) in the discus.
Reh seals a place in Berlin with a fast 10,000m in Regensburg
It will be another big year in the career of reigning European U23 cross country champion Alina Reh and even more so with the European Championships at home.
And the 21-year-old German made a good start as she won her first track race of the season with victory in the Regensburg Mittsommerlauf 10,000m in 32:17.17 from Anna Gehring (32:20.37) and European U20 5000m champion Miriam Dattke (32:44.79).
And at the other end of the age scale, Jo Pavey, the 2014 European 10,000m champion, clocked 15:48.84 in a solo 5000m at the BMC Classic in Loughborough – less than three months shy of her 45th birthday.