Such was the brilliance of Belarusians Hanna Malyshik and Tatsiana Khaladovich at last year’s European Throwing Cup, their early season world leading distances very much stood the test of time.
It might have been early March but their efforts in Samorin twelve months ago were among the best throws of the season. As Malyshik achieved 74.95m with her final effort in the hammer, the mark ended the year as the tenth best throw in the world. Khaladovich won with an equally-impressive javelin of 65.89m, which she increased to 67.22m in the summer but that first distance would still have put her eighth on the year’s world list.
A month today (21) some of the biggest names in the throws will gather for the first major event of the year as the European Throwing Cup returns to Leiria on 21-22 March. This will be the 20th edition of an event which first took place in Nice under its initial alias of the European Winter Throwing Challenge and the fixture remains for many throwers a key date in the diary. Based on preliminary entries, a record 43 countries will be sending athletes to compete in this year's event.
The event acts as the traditional international curtain raiser and the first opportunity for many throwers to try and secure qualifying marks for the upcoming summer championships. The qualifying standards for the Paris 2020 European Athletics Championships can be found here.
Due to the excellent facilities and organisation as well as the usually benign mid-March conditions in Portugal which are conducive to big performances, Leiria has been awarded the European Throwing Cup for the next three years having previously staged it on three occasions since 2014. Those three editions were undoubtedly highlighted by Johannes Vetter's huge throw of 92.70m in the javelin two years ago which added seven metres to the event record.
And it gives Malyshik not only the chance to triumph again at a venue she knows well but to land a personal achievement as she looks to make it three titles a row. The first of those wins came back in Leiria in 2018 when she won with 72.62m ahead of Moldova’s Zalina Petrivskaya.
On the basis of early season form, both Malyshik and Khaladovich will be difficult to surpass in their respective events. Malyshik began her season with 75.45m at the Belarusian Throwing Cup in Minsk while Khaladovich threatened her national record in the javelin with 67.17m. Both performances were world leading marks.
Anita Marton missed out on victory last year but the Hungarian - who is a regular participant at the European Throwing Cup - will be looking to win her third title albeit in non-consecutive years.
The winner in 2017 and 2018, Marton was third last year with 17.85m as Sweden’s Fanny Roos took the victory with 18.44m from Moldovan Dimitriana Surdu, second with 17.99m. The same triumvirate currently occupies the top three places on the 2020 European indoor list with Marton leading with 18.77m ahead of Surdu (18.50m) and Roos (18.19m).
Shanice Craft won the discus by just five centimetres last year with 59.79m and she has already been in action this winter, highlighting the ISTAF Indoor in Berlin where she set a world best 64.03m in the rarely contested indoor discus. That mark was supplanted by French veteran Melina Robert-Michon who blasted a world lead of 64.14m at the French Championships last weekend.
And a week before his 29th birthday, Francisco Belo will be hoping to give the host nation another gold after the Portuguese shot putter won in Samorin last year with a personal best of 20.97m.