By Yuri Karpenko
The prestigious tournament was hosted by top French sports complex Paris-Bercy, which seats almost 18,000. A special record was set, with 630 athletes from almost 50 European countries gathered at the stadium. Belarus sent 19 athletes to compete, accompanied by head coach Anatoly Baduev. He notes that our core team comprised young and promising athletes, with experience of European and world junior events. Our leading athletes were absent, as they are currently in training for the 2012 Olympics in London.
The younger generation of our track and field squad was motivated to do well, being keen to join the core line-up and, obviously, gain a place at the Olympics. All-round athlete Andrey Kravchenko, 25, was a favourite and met expectations; he earned 6,282 points over seven events to take gold (60m sprint, long jump, shot-putt, high jump, 60m steeplechase, pole vault and 1,000m race). Silver went to Nadir El Fassi of France while Czech Roman Sebrle took bronze. Before the final event, the 1,000m, Andrey was already ahead by a considerable amount, so his gold was a foregone conclusion. He also set a national record in the heptathlon and is the first Belarusian to win the European Indoor Athletics Championship.
This was Andrey’s fifth medal at a top tournament, having claimed silver at the 2008 Summer Olympics and at the 2008 Winter World Championship. He also took bronze at the 2007 Winter European Championship and at the 2010 Summer European Championship. Sadly, Kravchenko’s gold was the only medal brought home from Paris by Belarus, although seven members of our team reached the finals. Alina Talay was placed fifth in the final 60m steeplechase and set two personal records during the event. The top eight athletes included Veronika Shutkova and Anastasia Mironchik-Ivanova (long jump), Sergey Platonov (3,000m) and Dmitry Detsuk (triple jump) as well as Anastasia Shvedova (pole vault). The latter even broke her previous national record.