Category Archives: Helsinki Olympic Stadium

EC2012 Triple Jump: Olha Saladukha (Olha Saladuha Ольга Саладуха) takes gold

I love watching the triple jump because of its highly technical nature. The way the athletes hop, skip, and step to amazing distances is a graceful exercise that evokes wonder for this athletics aficionado.

However, the event has not been given the same attention as the more popular disciplines like the men’s 100m dash. I got thoroughly pissed off while watching the Adidas Grand Prix, a Diamond League meeting, last month. The directors of the telecast opted to air round-after-round of a pedestrian long jump competition over the women’s triple jump competition!

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Track Beauty of the Week: Irina Davydova Ирина Давыдова

Irina Davydova Ирина Давыдова is this week’s Track Beauty!

Coming into 2012, Daydova had a relatively humble personal best of 55.48s in the 400m hurdles. Davydova made heads turn when she made her outdoor debut in Sochi last May. The Russian clocked 53.87s for her first ever foray under 54-seconds, shedding 1.61 seconds off her erstwhile lifetime best. In fact, she had yet to go under 55 seconds prior to this year! Her performance in Sochi propelled the 24-year old to the top of the 2012 world rankings.

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Ivet Lalova’s Comeback

Ivet Lalova Ивет Лалова was one of the favorites to win a medal coming into the 2004 Athens Olympics. She had just set a new personal time of 10.77s, drawing level with Irina Privalova as the sixth fastest sprinter of all-time. Ivet, however, fell short of the podium in Athens. She finished in fourth place behind Yulia Nestsiarenka (Юлія Несцярэнка Юлия Нестеренко – 10.93s), Lauryn Williams (10.96s), and Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.97s).

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Helsinki European Championships: Women’s 4x400m Relay

The 4x400m relay has traditionally been the final event of athletics competitions. From low-key schools meets to the Olympics, the grueling yet exciting event has always been the curtain-ender.

The recently concluded European Championships in Helsinki were no different. With the Russian Olympic Trials being held the week after, the European athletics powerhouse opted to send its “B” team to Helsinki.

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Verena is Back!

My favorite moment of the 2010 Barcelona European Championships was when Verena Sailer stormed to first place at the 100m dash. Since then, I’ve been a fervent supporter of Verena. Unfortunately, the German sprinter’s performance have been hampered by injury.

Read: “Track Beauty of the Week – Verena Sailer”

The Helsinki European Championships was her first major international since her breakout win in Barcelona a couple of years ago. The German champion performed magnificently. Sailer notched a season’s best of 11.14s in the 1st Round. Verena (11.17s) finished second in her semifinal, behind the fast-finishing Olesya Povh Олеся Повх (11.13s)of Ukraine.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Jiřina Ptáčníková

Jiřina Ptácniková is this week’s track beauty!

The Czech pole vaulter is amongst the elite of the relatively-young athletics discipline. Ptácniková has a personal best of 4.66m set back in 2010. She has an indoor best of 4.60m, which she cleared as she missed out on the 2010 European Indoor Championships podium.

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The 25-year year old has had quite a few close brushes with major championship medals. In 2010, she placed 5th in both the World Indoor Championships in Doha and the European Championships in Barcelona, where she was a mere centimeter away from her personal best. The Czech has a Universiade gold medal to her credit though, a feat she achieved in 2009.

Nevertheless, her improvement through the years have been steadily consistent. In a technical event where pre-competition favorites could falter (think Sergey Bubka Сергі́й Наза́рович Бу́бка during the 1992 Olympic Games) or relative no-names could shoot out of obscurity (think Rens Blom at the rain-soaked 2005 Helsinki World Champs), Ptácniková is within range to eke out a surprise performance.

Fittingly, Jirina won her first ever major international title in a rain-soaked final at the Helsinki European Championships. The Czech had a best clearance of 4.60m in the competition, winning over the German record holder Martina Strutz and Greek Nikoleta Kyriokopolou on countback.

Track Beauty of the Week: Margrethe Renstrøm

Margrethe Renstrøm is this week’s track beauty!

The Norwegian jumper did well at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona. Renstrøm leaped to a personal best of 6.68m at the qualifying rounds, setting a new Norwegian record in the process. She failed to duplicate her sterling form in the final, jumping only 6.18m which was good enough for 12th overall.



 Photos from and

Renstrøm ranked 13th in the Long Jump qualifying at the 2009 Berlin World Championships. The ace Norwegian long jumper won double medals at the Long and Triple jumps at the 2006 European Cup Second League in 2006 – a remarkable performance for the multi-talented jumper.

The Søgne-born Renstrøm holds both the Norwegian triple and long jump records. She set her first national long jump record at the 2009 Norwegian Championships, where she leaped 6.64m to better the then twenty-nine year old benchmark.

Two years after her record-breaking performance in Barcelona, Renstrøm again competed with distinction at the European Championships. The Norwegian, together with Karen Mey Melis and Eloyse Leseur, topped the qualifying rounds with a 6.66m mark. Margrethe barged into top three, despite notching only two valid marks in the final.

Leseur eventually won the competition in 6.81m. Renstrøm’s best jump of 6.67m was good enough for the bronze – Margrethe’s first ever major international medal.

Additional Link:

All-Athletics Profile

The Finnkampen/Ruotsi-ottelu

When I first heard about the Finnkampen/Ruotsi-ottelu years ago, I must admit that I wasn’t all that impressed. Back then, my concept of a dual meet was laid-back competition between two schools, something akin to a time trial.

I was dead wrong.

As my concept of athletics widened throughout the years, I’ve realized the fact that track & field (as us Americanized Filipinos call the sport) is most popular in Europe. All the world’s elite athletes trot their stuff at the highly competitive (and financially-rewarding) European circuit. From the Diamond League, the IAAF World Challenge to obscure Estonian meets, Europe has it all, attracting the professionals from all corners of the globe.

Whilst going over my daily athletics morning fare, I watched Youtube clips of the recently concluded IAAF World Challenge in Rieti and the Finnkampen (the Swedish term is much easier to speak/write for this English speaker). David Rudisha had again broken his two-week old world record, running away from the field at 1:41.01s. The sizable Italian crowd was ecstatic, the meet directors even more so.

But there was an artificial quality to the spirit of competition. Perhaps it irked me how one of the organizers herded Rudisha right in front of the giant digital timer for a photo op – right after his world-record race! It seemed as if everything – from the post-race celebration to the post-race handshakes – were performed in a perfunctory manner. But then again, it is understandable that the unbridled passion one sees in major championships like the Olympics, the Worlds and the Europeans are absent from just another stop at the European circuit.

The Finnkampen, despite the dearth of world-class performances, had that distinctive small-town charm. With 54,000 spectators spread over two days of competition, it was apparent that this dual meet between the Scandinavian neighbors is not just another speck in the athletics calendar. In fact, the 2007 World Champion Tero Pitkamaki and two compatriots immediately went to the historic Helsinki Olympic Stadium to compete, after their flight from the Meeting Van Damme in Belgium. Finland’s top pole vaulter, Minna Nikannen, shrugged off a troublesome calf to clear the highest possible height – a testament to the raw emotion of this storied competition.

The loud cheers of the crowd and the all-out performance of the athletes gave goosebumps to this athletics fanatic thousands of miles away. In this day and age of specialization, where professional athletes reign supreme at their respective fields, I’ve developed a certain fondness for the amateur (probably because I’m an amateur myself!) As the Finnish sprinter/hurdler Gustav Klingstedt said in reply to one of my previous posts, the Finnkampen is “probably the only athletics competition where the great majority of athletes are amateurs which still gathers over 10,000 spectators every year.”

Whilst watching Finland’s Matti Räsänen battle Sweden’s Oscar Käck in a classic dash to the tape at the 5000m, I was awestruck at the intensity of their furious finish. In the clips that I’ve seen, teammates from both sides were quite vocal in cheering their respective sides. This is a sight devoid from those big-money meets. In fact, such a display of support is more akin to a heated college-level competition. In the Philippines, the closest example is the basketball rivalry between Ateneo and La Salle. In a sense, the Sweden-Finland dual meet can be likened to an Ateneo-La Salle finals game – multiplied a hundred fold!

Additional links


IAAF article

EAA Day 1 write-up

EAA Day 2 write-up

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