Bondarenko and Hejnova thriving on camp in South Africa

Bondarenko and Hejnova thriving on camp in South Africa
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The 2013 European Athletes of the Year, Ukraine's Bohdan Bondarenko and Czech Republic's Zuzana Hejnova are back in training in preparation for the upcoming outdoor season.

In 2013, it was so much their year - as the European Athletics Awards night last October proved, when the two were crowned European Athletes of the Year.

Now, as the outdoor season moves closer again, Bohdan Bondarenko and Zuzana Hejnova are happy to report good news from their South African warm-weather training bases after a winter of different fortunes.

High jumper Bondarenko, of the Ukraine, chose not to compete indoors, digesting all he had achieved last year, preparing to do it all again and most probably watching as his Russian rivals showed him how tough it will be in the months ahead.

The Czech Republic’s Hejnova had no choice, after fracturing a bone in her instep at the start of January, an injury that needed lengthy time to recover from before she could begin thinking of running again, let alone going over the 400m hurdles that have made her such a star.

Bondarenko’s opening event is just five weeks away in Japan as he confirmed on his Facebook page by writing: “I’m doing well and training hard for the outdoor season.

“Great conditions here to get in the best shape. My first competition will be in Tokyo on 11 May.”

He moved to third on the all-time list last year when he cleared 2.41m, a height just four centimetres short of Javier Sotomayor’s world record that has stood since 1993, and a mark he is determined to beat.

But while he was the outstanding star of 2013, the indoor season has shown how strong the event is with Russian Ivan Ukhov, the Olympic champion, jumping 2.42m and his teammate Aleksey Dmitrik clearing 2.40m.

Outdoors last year, as Bondarenko twice went over at 2.41m - in Lausanne and then at the World Championships in Moscow - Ukhov had a best of 2.35m and Dmitrik 2.30m.

Such have been the winter exploits of this pair that their clash with Bondarenko at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August should be something spectacular.

On form, Hejnova would be unstoppable in Zurich, just as she was last, remaining unbeaten over the barriers.

With injury, naturally caution is not far behind but in Potchefstroom, she has started running again, reports the Czech daily newspaper Pravo, and she might race again at the end of June.

“I already had three light runs in training and then one training session with 400m runs but all in very light in tempo,” said Hejnova. “I think I will be able to add the speed soon.

“It is good that we are training here on a grass track; hurdles will possibly come only after arriving back in the Czech Republic.”

Small steps can lead to big ones, and Hejnova is the perfect example of that.

At the last European Athletics Championships in Helsinki, she was fourth in the final before a few weeks later making the podium with bronze at the Olympic Games in London and then, 12 months later, becoming world champion.

It is a different kind of progression this time, but nonetheless, one that is on the right track.