The European Athletics Championships, the Swedish city Gothenburg has hosted recently, was an important event for the Belarusian team. There are at least two reasons for this. First of all, the final team list for the Olympics in Beijing in two years depended heavily on the results of the European Championship. You must admit, that is a strong motivation for Belarusian athletes. Secondly, this competition is considered to be very professional and top-flight. Times have passed when such European athletics championships were took as events to warm up. Everything was earnest in Gothenburg: teams, ambitions and results. It is very encouraging that the Belarusian team managed to receive a record of medals and ranked third in their number. We are going to refresh in our memory these pleasant days for Belarusian fans and try to guess, what may come and what chances Belarus will have at the World Championship in Japanese Osaka and then in Beijing.
Shot-putters were given the honor to open the championship. The leader of the Belarusian athletes in this event was Andrei Mikhnevich. He was the hope-giver of Belarusian fans and was expected to win the gold. Quite easy he managed to pass the qualification and suddenly lost the gold to Germany’s Ralf Bartels in the last round. Bartels’ victory came as something quite unexpected to all spectators. Nevertheless, there are no doubts that Andrei will get own in a year. We may have doubts about another Belarusian athlete, Pavel Lyzhin. Actually, he has managed to make a really successful throw. He was not a nominee for the gold, but he hit the 20-meter mark and landed with the result in the final pool. Who knows what will come next? Nobody knows. After the competition Lyzhin blamed the referees who refused to score up his first very successful throw that was not electronically recorded. Pavel has only one problem — it is the amenity of temper. “I would be lying there for ages until the arbiters measure and record my result,” Vadim Devyatovsky, the leader in the men’s hammer competition, said.
Women had even more fun. The European shot put champion and member of Team Europe for the IAAF World Cup Nataliya Khoroneko and her teammate the reigning World champion and European silver medallist Nadezhda Ostapchuk were contending hard for the victory. Everyone was sure Nadezhda will come as a winner. But she lost her nerve as it already happened. She managed only several valid throws, all at the end of the event. In the result she lost one vital centimeter to Natalya Khoroneko. “Natasha has stepped into my shoes, and I am going make you believe I am the best,” Nadezhda said. But these are internal discussions that in any way do not spoil the total result of the Belarusian team.
Fans of the Belarusian athletic team were looking forward to hammer throwing competition. Great hopes were put on men’s hammer competition, as for women’s hammer, it was awaited apprehensively. All expectations came true. Belarusian women throwers disappointed their fans. There was only one exception: Marina Smolyachkova, who has gained the fourth place in the competition. It is a great achievement for her young age. Marina has never stated that she plans to beat the world record. Nobody considered her a leader in comparison to Olga Tsander. Other athletes should learn and take a pattern by the male throwers. Their steady performance arouses respect. Even experienced foreign coaches were surprised with the success of Ivan Tikhonov, who has failed to participate in the majority of competitions during this season. He managed to beat competitors by his first throw and hurried to the neighboring sector to encourage Belarusian female shot-putters. As for Vadim Devyatovsky, he was very good as well. Experts say, that he deserves more than the bronze. I am sure in Osaka he will be more successful.
No burden is too hard if you have a friend to share it with you, one of ancient wisemen said. The Usovich and Turova sisters believe if you have a sister to share the burden with you it is even better. These two family teams were very successful during the competition. I have no idea, what sisterhood has to do with winning but we were given a good opportunity to see the final result. “I will tell Alesya, what she has to do in order to win,” Rita Turova said as she walked away from a world-class field in the women’s 20-kilometer walk. She became the first woman from Belarus to win a European Athletics Championships gold medal that evening. Thus Rita has issued a challenge to her elder sister, Alesya to match the achievement in the steeplechase at the Ullevi stadium later in the week.
Ilona Usovich was a real discovery of the recent championship. She managed to fight her way to the first European Championship final in her life. Moreover, she got the third time in 400-meter run. The best Ilona’s results in the last three seasons were 54.75 seconds, 52.31 seconds and 50.96 seconds. The tendency is very promising. I guess, Ilona has potential to surprise us in a year. Besides, she is expected to do this together with her sister Svetlana. In Gothenburg the Belarusian 4х400 women relay-race team proved that they are among the best and the strongest. In case the Belarusian team manages to stay in this physical form and become more united, it will be able to compete for medals in Osaka.
Lightning is back
Sports fan were looking forward to 100-meters women competition. There were several reasons for this. This competition is one of the most prestigious and interesting. It was also a tense moment for Belarusian fans as the physical form and prospects of Yulia Nesterenko, the Belarusian “white lightning” as she is often called, were very doubtful. Her numerous physical injuries after the gold in Athens gave thoughts to all.
Nevertheless, Yulia struggled and won in Gothenburg. No, she has not beaten her competitors. She has secured a victory over herself. Nesterenko has proved that she is able to run and to do it fast. Her next aim is to slip out of the scored 10,9 seconds. But these are plans for the future. Gothenburg has presented the bronze to the Belarusian team. “We just had luck,” Yulya Nesterenko, Natalya Safronnikova, Elena Nevmerzhitskaya and Oksana Drugun said altogether smiling. I hope in a year these girls will be able to win even if their competitors are top-fit.
The Belarusian athletic team won nine medals at the European Championship in the city of Gothenburg. Never has the team been so successful at European-scale competitions. These achievements are not something extraordinary, according to the main team coach, Anatoly Baduev. He believes this is a good level for the team, but it is necessary to keep and even raise it.
Anatoly says there is also a growth potential. He named Olga Kravtsova as one of the promising sportsman. She has not completely recovered from the injury of the Achilles tendon and ranks sixth after the competition. According to Anatoly, one should not leave out women discus-throwers. “Irina Yatchenko and Ellina Zvereva know well what the coming Olympics are getting ready for them. European competitions are shake-ups that help sportsmen to keep physical form and retain the sense of reality,” the coach says. “They have spotted their mistakes and faults and know what to work on.” Time will tell. Now it is time to share the joy and success of the Belarusian athletics team. Let this Gothenburg luck and success be its standing follower.
by Dmitry Komashko
Belarusian team of athletes ranks third in medals after the recent European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg