Iceland and Serbia poised to push for promotion in the Third League

Gudbjorg Jona Bjarnadottir
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Iceland's Gudbojrg Jona Bjarnadottir will be attempting to win the 100m and 200m at the European Athletics Team Championships Third League in Skopje

When it comes to the European Athletics Team Championships, Anita Hinriksdottir is a model of consistency. She is still only 23 and yet she has more victories to her name than many in the decade that the competition has taken place.

Next stop for Hinriksdottir and her Icelandic teammates will be in Skopje in the Republic of North Macedonia this weekend as they look to make up for their relegation two years ago. 

Iceland were one of three teams to go down into the Third League in 2017 – they were joined by Serbia and Moldova – but only one will be promoted this time as part of the restructure of the European Athletics Team Championships which was approved in November. 

Iceland will be looking for maximum points again from Hinriksdottir in both the 800m and 1500m and she has also been named in their relay pool for the 4x400m.

Hinriksdottir won the 800m two years ago in the Second League in Tel Aviv having first achieved the middle distance double as a 17-year-old in 2013 in Banska Bystrica before finishing second at both distances the following year in Tbilisi behind Albanian stalwart Luiza Gega who will also be in action in Skopje in the 3000m steeplechase and 5000m.

On times alone, Hinriksdottir should have no trouble winning both events as Iceland will battle it out for the sole promotion spot with the Athletic Association of Small States of Europe, Albania (AASSE), Andorra, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Moldova, hosts Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, San Marino and Serbia. 

Another potentially high scoring athlete on the Icelandic team is the reigning European U18 100m champion Gudbjorg Jona Bjarnadottir who has been entered for both the 100m and 200m and both relays. 

In a city which lies on the banks of the Vardar River, the hosts will be hoping for big points from Jovan Stojoski who will have an action-packed two days. 

It is proving a great outdoor season for Stojoski who initially broke the national 200m record with a time of 21.40 which he then lowered to 21.32 a month later. He has also run personal bests in the 100m (10.82) and 400m (47.01) and not only will he run in three individual events this weekend, he will also be part of the 4x400m relay team.

The three relegated teams from 2017 could be the ones to catch as Serbia and Moldova also have line-ups replete with familiar names. 

Strahinja Jovancevic has become one of the stars of the Serbian team after a brilliant performance to not only win bronze in the long jump at the European Indoor Championships in March but to break the national record also with 8.03m. 

Jovancevic will also run in the 4x100m relay in a Serbian team in which former European indoor champion Asmir Kolasinac should win the shot put. Big points should also come from recent European U23 1500m bronze medallist Elzan Bibic in the 1500m and 3000m and veteran Olivera Jevtic, the 2006 European marathon silver medallist, in the 5000m. 

For Moldova, discus thrower Alexandra Emilianov knows all about winning. She is not 20 until next month but she is already one of her country’s most acclaimed athletes with a run of success in the discus dating all the way back to the 2015 IAAF World U18 Championships in Cali where she won gold.

Emilianov can expect a close battle with Serbian veteran Dragana Tomasevic in the discus - their season’s bests stand at 61.62m and 61.55m respectively - while Emilianov’s teammate Zalina Petrivskaya is the marginal favourite in the women’s hammer ahead of Azerbaijan’s former European bronze medallist Hanna Skydan. 

The Moldovans will have high hopes for Petrivskaya’s younger brother Serghei Marghiev in the hammer while Dimitriana Surdu, who has a season’s best of 18.62m, is the favourite for maximum points in the shot put. 

It is set to be a tight match for the title and a fascinating one too.