Burgin, Iapichino and Nacheva excel with European U20 Championships approaching

Aleksandra Nacheva
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Reigning world U20 champion Aleksandra Nacheva equalled the world U20 lead at the Romanian Championships with 14.13m

Three outstanding youngsters set significant performances this weekend which could set the tone for next month’s Boras 2019 European Athletics U20 Championships in Sweden from 18-21 July.

And two of the three results were achieved by athletes who are still officially classified as U18s which means they will also be eligible to compete at the 2021 European U20 Championships.

Although they will both face competitors more than two years their senior in Boras, Great Britain’s Max Burgin and Italy’s Larissa Iapichino begin as favourites - albeit to varying degrees - in their respective events after record-breaking performances at their national championships.

Burgin has already achieved success on the continental stage after winning the European U18 title with a gun-to-tape display in Gyor in a 1:47.36 PB but the Brit, who only turned 17 last month, has improved that time by exactly two seconds in two races in 2019.

His season’s opener of 1:46.80 in Loughborough nine days ago was eye-catching enough as he improved the British age-17 best held by a certain Steve Ovett since 1973.

That mark set by Ovett lasted 46 years but the following record lasted all of eight days. With another imperious gun-to-tape display which saw him pass through the bell in a controlled 52.02, Burgin decimated that time with 1:45.36 at the England Athletics U20 Championships in Bedford on Sunday (23).

“I thought last week’s time was great and I just smashed that, so I’m very happy. I wasn’t expecting to run that fast – I did want a PB and that was my target going into the race,” he told Athletics Weekly after the race.

Not only did Burgin break the long-standing British U20 record, Burgin’s performance was notable from a European perspective historically. His time was a European U18 best and only future Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy from Russia has run faster among U20s with three sub-1:45 clockings in 2000.

Burgin was followed home by Ben Pattison who set a two second lifetime best with 1:46.71, the second fastest time by a European U20 in 2019. The fastest non-Brit this year is Hungary’s Lorinc Varga, some two seconds back on Burgin's time with 1:47.81.

World U20 leading marks for Iapichino and Nacheva 

At the Italian U18 Championships in Agropoli, 16-year-old Larissa Iapichino, the daughter of 1995 and 2001 world champion Fiona May, improved her lifetime best four times in one competition from 6.38m to 6.64m - a world U20 lead and an Italian U18 and U20 record.

After opening her competition with 6.44m, Iapichino improved to 6.49m in the second round. Her fourth round jump of 6.42m into a 1.1 m/s headwind was also in excess of her previous lifetime best but two even bigger jumps were to follow.

"It seems impossible to me, I can't believe what I did! The truth is the 6.54m in the fifth jump left me a bit perplexed, just one inch from the Italian record and I could not end like this,” Iapichino told FIDAL.

“At that moment I said to myself: ‘Larissa, you have the last attempt, you have already won your title, have fun, run well, take off and close well to make those few centimetres. The distance came up and I did not believe it!”

Like Burgin, Iapichino competed at the European U18 Championships last year. She also led the European U18 list before the final but could only manage eighth in a competition which was made unpredictable by strong winds and unsettled weather.

Sweden’s Tilde Johansson won the title in Gyor and the 18-year-old will provide Iapichino with stern competition on home soil next month. She won three national indoors senior titles this year and is just behind Iapichino on the 2019 European U20 list with 6.61m.  

By contrast, Bulgaria’s world U20 champion Aleksandra Nacheva looks a safe bet to win the triple jump title at the European U20 Championships.

Competing as a guest at the Romanian U20 Championships in Pitesti, Nacheva hit the sand at 14.13m to equal the world U20 lead and become the first European U20 to surpass the 14-metre line in 2019. In fact, Nacheva leads the European U20 list by 52 centimetres.

Nacheva is only 17 but she is already a familiar face on the European stage at all levels. She finished fourth at the 2017 European U20 Championships two years ago in Grosseto at the age of 15, only shunted into fourth in the last round.

After silver at the World U18 Championships in 2017, Nacheva won another silver at the European U18 Championships in Gyor before winning gold at both the World U20 Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.

Nacheva made her senior debut at the European Championships in Berlin just weeks before her 17th birthday and also competed at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow.