Craft looks to sculpt history at U23 championships

Craft looks to sculpt history at U23 championships
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Germany's Shanice Craft spoke about the strength of the German team ahead of the European Athletics U23 Championships in Tallinn on Wednesday.

The Germans took a one-two in the discus in Tampere but with three throwers in the field with personal best in excess of 60 metres, the first ever clean sweep in the event might be on the cards by the time we reach the final on Sunday afternoon.

“That’s the goal for us. Winning three medals for Germany would be wonderful,” said Shanice Craft at the official press conference for the European Athletics U23 Championships on Wednesday 8 July.

Craft will come up against her long-time domestic rival Anna Rüh, who is aiming to retain her title this weekend. Craft beat Rüh when the European Athletics Junior Championships were staged in Tallinn four years ago but since then, Ruh pipped Craft for the world junior title in 2012 and the European under-23 title in 2013.

The head-to-head between Craft and Ruh stands at 13-13 but Craft insists this fierce rivalry doesn’t extend beyond the discus circle.

“Since 2011, we have always been in the big competitions together. We’re rivals but at the same time, we’re good friends. Some people, they need to hate each other when they’re competing but we always have fun after the competition,” said Craft, who cites Franka Dietzsch as her idol.

The German trio which also includes Kristin Pudenz lead the rankings by a clear distance. While Craft is keen to upgrade her silver medal from Tampere, losing to one of her team-mates would soften the blow.

“Even if I finished second and I wanted to finish first, I’m still happy because standing on the podium with two other German girls who are also friends would be awesome.”

Craft has also entered the shot put in Tallinn where she will be in the hunt for another medal but the discus will remain her focus.

In an event where athletes tend to mature with age, Craft already boasts a world class personal best of 65.88m. She also picked up a bronze medal from the European Athletics Championships last summer but with six throwers in Germany boasting the qualifying standard for the World Championships, Craft is aware she cannot rest on her laurels.

“It’s very good because sometimes the training is tiring and I don’t want to do anything but I remind myself it’s very hard to get to the championships and that motivates me,” said Craft.

“On the other hand, to know you are at a top level in the world but you have to stay at home because you finished fourth [in the trials] is difficult.”

Estonians athletes are desperate to win medals at home

Estonian athletes Kätlin Piirimae, Janek Oiglane and Grete Sadeiko, hope to earn medals for their country this week.
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Estonian athletes Kätlin Piirimae, Janek Oiglane and Grete Sadeiko, hope to earn medals for their country this week.


The standard in the decathlon in Estonia is equally tough with six athletes making the qualifying standard for the event, including Janek Oiglane.

“The quality at under-23 level is very high. I think I was lucky to get in the team,” said Oiglane, who also boasts the qualifying standard for the javelin with 71.11m.

The pre-competition favourite is Pieter Braun from the Netherlands, who arrives fresh from a lifetime best of 8197 in Götzis where he beat his chief rival Jiri Sykora from the Czech Republic.

“I did a competition in Götzis this year and it went really well; I scored seven personal bests which was amazing. I have a good feeling about the competition this weekend. I’m feeling as strong as I was then and I am confident I can go for a medal,” said Braun, who has trained alongside Eelco Sintnicoolas since 2013.

For two Estonian hopefuls, the road to Tallinn has followed contrasting paths. Heptathlete Grete Sadeiko, whose older sister Grit won this title four years ago, has plied her trade on the NCAA circuit this year but the Florida State University student outlines this competition is her main aim for the year.

By contrast, shot putter Katlin Piirimae has prepared for this competition in her own backyard - in the most literal sense. Her garden at home contains a shot put circle where she does the bulk of her training under the guidance of her mother.

Piirimae added more than half a metre to her lifetime best to secure a bronze medal at the 2013 European Athletics Junior Championships in 2013, and the 19-year-old is looking to spring another surprise on home soil.