The European Athletics U20 Championships in Jerusalem witnessed an extraordinary showcase of young talent, where the brightest stars of the track and field world converged to compete at the highest level. Amongst the myriad of remarkable athletes, five individuals, namely Mattia Furlani, Niels Laros, Agate Caune, Marek Zakrzewski, and Angelina Topic, emerged as the undeniable headliners of the event. With their exceptional skills, unwavering determination, and remarkable performances, these athletes captured the attention of spectators and experts alike, leaving an indelible mark on the championship and solidifying their status as rising stars in the realm of athletics.
Furlani added the European Under 20 gold medal in the long jump to the two European Under 18 titles in the high jump and in the long jump he claimed in the same venue last year. The Italian 18-year-old star set a championship record of 8.23m in the first round, missing his Italian under 20 record set at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Hengelo last June. Bulgaria’s Bozhidar Saraboyukov responded with a lifetime best of 8.22m, the first jump of her career over the 8 metres barrier. The Bulgarian jumper, who won the silver medal in the high jump at the World Under 20 Championships in Cali 2022, produced an impressive series with five jumps over the 8 metres barrier.
“I want to congratulate with Bozhidar because he is a great athlete. My only thoughts were jump, work hard. In the second jump there was too much wind and I started feeling the pressure of the competition. I decided non to do the last jump because I was tired. I want to go to Budapest at my best”, said Furlani.
Italy won the second gold medal with Simone Bertelli, who won the men’s pole vault with 5.40m beating Valentin Imsand from Switzerland on countback.
Angelina Topic cleared all heights until 1.90m in her first attempt to win the women’s high jump. Topic also finished sixth with 6.42m in the long jump the following day. The Serbian rising star is coached by her father Dragutin Topic, who won the European title in Split 1990 and set a PB of 2.37m in his career. Angelina’s mother Biljana Mitrovic won the bronze medal in the triple jump at the World Championships in Berlin 2009.
“I felt really great. I am feeling better than ever. I wanted to jump a bit higher but my coach told me to spare energy for the long jump. My father-my coach just told me after the competition: ‘I am so proud of you.’ He wanted to start crying”.
Melwin Lycke Holm:
Swedish 18-year Melwin Lycke Holm equalled his PB with 2.18m on his first attempt to beat Italy’s Edoardo Stronati on countback. Melwin is coached by his father Stefan Holm, who won the Olympic gold medal in Athens 2004 and cleared a lifetime best of 2.40m in Madrid 2005.
“My plan was to try to clear every height in the first attempt, which I did and that’s what got me the gold at the end”, said Melwin Holm.
Agate Caune from Latvia set two championships records of this year’s edition improving the 5000m mark by more than 17 seconds with 15.03.85. The 18-year-old Latvian athlete, who won the European under 20 silver medal as a 16-year-old in the previous edition in Tallin, completed the double by winning the 3000 metres in 8:53.20, the second fastest time ever achieved at these Championships behind the championships record held by Romanian legend Gabriela Szabo with 8:50.97.
“I did not think I would run so fast, but I felt great during the race and I am extremely happy with the record. My coach told me to push if I feel great”, said Agate Caune.
Dutch rising star Niels Laros claimed a middle distance double winning the 1500m in 3:56.78 with a final lap in 51.35 after a tactical race and the 5000m in 14:11.82. Laros had already achieved a double winning the 1500m and the 3000m at the European Under 18 Championships last year in the same venue. This year he improved his 1500m PB to 3:32.89 in Nice becoming the second fastest European under 20 runner in history behind Jakob Ingebrigtsen. Laros also improved his 800m PB to 1:44.85 in the Monaco Diamond League race.
“I never underestimate anyone. Everyone wants to do his best. I do not want to be arrogant, but I think it was hard to beat me. When I was here last year I had just switched to my new coach Tomaz Lewandowski. I really feel the improvement and the strength he has given me”, said Laros.
Polish sprint rising star Marek Zakrzewki achieved a double winning in the 100 metres in a national under 20 record of 10.25 and in the 200m in 20”63. Zakrzewski has become the first sprinter to achieve a double in the 100m and in the 200m at these championships since Darren Campbell in 1991.
Marek Zakrzewki: “I am feeling like a big athletics star at the moment. I am making history and I am one of the youngest sprinters here, so it’s fantastic”.
Two-time world under 20 champion Adriana Vilagos from Serbia added another gold medal to her collection with 58.38m in the women’s javelin throw.
Ukraine’s Mykhaylo Brudin set the championships record in the qualifying round of the men’s discus throw with 65.48m. Brudin improved his PB to 66.58m to add the European under 20 gold medal to his European under 18 title in Jerusalem.
Max Lempinen from Finland set a world seasonal lead of 79.45m to win the men’s hammer throw.
“I think I surprised all my rivals, maybe I made them angry, but they will have another chance for revenge at the next competitions. I came here to fight for a medal and I knew I was going to break my PB, so I am not surprised, but I knew it would be so massive”, said Max Lempinen.
Gyorgy Herczeg from Hungary won the gold medal in the men’s hammer throw with 79.45m in the third round a few weeks after breaking the European under 20 record with 84.98m in Austria.
Elizabeth Ndudi from Ireland took a very close win in the women’s long jump with her Irish under 20 record of 6.56m beating Bulgaria’s Plamena Mitkova by two centimetres. Five centimetres separated the top three finishers. Laura Raquel Muller won the bronze medal with 6.51m beating Sweden’s Ayla Hallberg Hossain by 1 cm.
Austria’s Enzo Diessl won the 110 metres hurdles gold medal in 13.12 beating Rasmus Vehmaa (13.23). Diessl became the fourth Austrian athlete to win in the history of the European Under 20 Championships.
“I was a bit nervous before the final. The heat was great but the semifinal did not go exactly as I wanted. I did not have a good reaction time, but my coach told me to stay focused. I think until the fifth hurdle, I was not in front but I wanted to win so bad that I just switched another gear and managed to win”, said Enzo Diessl.
Rosina Schneider won her first international title in the women’s 100 metres hurdles setting a championship record of 13.06.
Lurdes Gloria Manuel from Czech Republic won the women’s 400 metres in 51.94 one year after her European under 18 silver medal on the same track.
“I am the European champion. That sounds amazing. I knew I had the fastest time, but I did not take anything for granted. I wanted to make sure I was going for gold”, said Manuel.
Jonas Gunnleivson from Denmark won the men’s 400 metres in a national under 20 record of 45.86.
“A year ago I lost my mother from cancer. She died and I promised her that I am going to win every single competition from now on”.
Audrey Werro from Switzerland won her second European under 20 gold medal in the women’s 800 metres in 2:03.38; she won the first continiental title in Tallin 2021 and last year she claimed the world under 20 silver medal in Cali.
European under 18 champion Amadeus Graber from Germany won the men’s decathlon with 8209 points beating his compatriot Matthias Lasch (8052) and Andrin Huber from Switzerland (8009).
Sandrina Sprengel completed the German double in combined events by winning the women’s heptathlon with 5928 points.
Curly Brown led a podium sweep for Germany with a lifetime best of 53.93m in the women’s discus throw beating Milina Weipwe (53.83m) and Lea Bork (53.46m).
Viktor Morozow earned the first gold medal for Estonia at this edition of the European Championships by taking the victory in the men’s triple jump with 16.45m. Bozhidar Saraboyukov finished second with 16.25m adding a second silver medal to the one he won in the long jump in this edition of the European Under 20 Championships.
Oleksandra Chernukha from the Ukraine improved her PB to 13.63m in the final round to clinch the gold medal in the women’s triple jump. Teodora Boberic from Serbia leapt to 13.50m in the first round to win the silver medal. Aleksandrija Mitrovic from Serbia won the bronze medal with 13.40m beating this year’s EYOF champion Erika Giorgia Saraceni from Italy on countback.