The Banskobystrická latka – the famous Banska Bystrica indoor high jump meeting in Slovakia – has deservedly become recognised as one of the leading specialist indoor meetings in the world and this year was no different.
This winter’s sensation Yaroslava Mahuchikh produced an excellent win against a world class field, part of a seven-meeting unbeaten streak for the teenage Ukrainian across a six-week period in January and February, clearing 1.96m.
The men’s competition saw three men over 2.31m or better with Cuba’s Luis Zayas taking the plaudits by going over 2.33m.
Even if the heights this year were not quite as spectacular as some recent years, with the women’s competition regularly won at 2.00m or better and the meeting record held by Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic with 2.05m from 2006, not a single jumper regretted their trip to central Slovakia or said they would turn down an invitation in 2021.
“Being in Banska (Bystrica) is great, the atmosphere is always so good. It’s like the people in the crowd are taking part in this event, they get emotional and we (the jumpers) feel that emotion,” reflected Italy’s Alessia Trost, a former world and European indoor championships medallist and a former winner in Banska Bystrica who has competed there five times so far in her career.
One of the reasons so many top high jumpers head for Banska Bystrica annually in February is the surface provided by the European Athletics Green Inspiration Partner Mondo, which is installed the day before the competition by local technicians in the Stiavnicky Sports Hall and then taken up the day after.
The surface, which covers an area the size of a basketball court, is often referred to by the high jumpers themselves as ‘The Magic Floor’.
“The surface is great, it’s one of the reasons why we all try to jump here. When you take off it’s like ‘OMG’!” joked Trost.
“I think it’s one of the most special competitions of the winter season,” added 2017 European indoor champion Airine Palsyte, from Lithuania. “It (the jumping surface) is really bouncy and you get lots of bounciness from it. If you go around the indoor tracks, there are different kinds of rubber surfaces but this one is really special.”
"The most special thing about this meeting is the audience. I realised that the first time I was here in 2003. The atmosphere here can lift you, if you are that type of jumper, you know that everybody is watching you and you feel special. The surface is bouncy and if you are a fast jumper you can really use the floor in a very good way,” commented 2004 Olympic champion Stefan Holm, who this year was one of the guests of honour at the meeting.
The Swede won on all four of his visits to Banska Bystrica in the mid-2000s.
Due to its popularity with the jumpers and always having a capacity crowd, with barely a spare seat in the 1500-seater arena, the Banska Bystrica meeting - which started in 1993 and celebrated its 26th edition this year - is also one of the jewels in the crown of the European Athletics Indoor Permit Meetings, many of which also take place on Mondo tracks.