By Paul Groves on 20/07/15 at 11:51 am
Zagreb welcomes athletes for the Balkan Championships
With the racing taking place in hot conditions, as the day got hotter, it is a big cheer to the organisers of the 2015 Zagreb ETU Triathlon Balkan Championships. They managed to stage this event pretty much the centre of the city. The lake looked stunning as the Elite Men and Women raced. It was the Elite Men who raced first and under the watchful eye of one of the regions most experienced Technical Officials, Andreas Galanos, the event ran well.
With 39 Elite men at the start, the medals and points would be fought for over the Sprint Distance. Although it was the Balkan Championships, there were athletes from Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
This region has been working closely together for many years and they all support each other. At this race, Zagreb Triathlon Union offered free accommodation on a Full-Board basis to the members of the teams of the Balkan countries (10 athletes + 2 leaders).
The location, around a beautiful and very popular lagoon, could not have been better.
The one lap swim saw Georgios Daniil GRE lead the men out. Just behind him came Czech athlete František Kubínek. Danylo Sapunov UKR and Sylwester Kuster POL, were close by as they set off onto the bike course.
With temperatures in the 30’s it was going to be a hard and hot ride. With five-times Polish champion in Sprint and Standard distance triathlon, Kuster in a strong position and Hungarian László Tarnai storming through the field, it looked, with Sapunov’s pace as if there would be no Balkan athletes on the podium despite Ognjen Stojanović SRB having a great bike.
The dismount saw a pack of 9 with the major contenders now all set to run for the podium places, points and championship titles.
A close pack formed with each athlete knowing each other’s’ strengths but the heat, would it play a factor ?
It was Tarnai who, with stunning pace over the run, broke away from the front and stole 1st place.
Kuster came in second and Stojanović took third. In terms of Balkan Championships, this gave Gold to Stojanović, who had Sapunov breathing down his neck in the last few metres to the finish line. James Chronis GRE was rewarded with a silver after a strong bike and run and it was bronze to Matevž Planko much to the delight of the Slovenian supporters.
Technical Delegate, Andreas Galanos said, after the race, “Today was extremely hot weather conditions. When it finished the thermometer read 37C but luckily the Elite raced early. I had to reduce the distances for youths as part of the standard procedures for ETU Contingency Planning. The race was very race and the atmosphere was very friendly. It was great to have such a supportive and polite crowd and they got to see a great event as the race was located around a lagoon, which is Zagreb's favourite resort and leisure place and the best place in town to cool down in the summer heat. This event, returning to the international stage after an absence of ten years, showed that the level of organisation and of athletes in improving in the Balkans. There were many young athletes who were racing internationally for the first time and it was great to be able to work with such a strong team of Technical Officials from the Balkans.”
The women’s race
With temperatures climbing it was a real pleasure for the athletes to swim in the beautiful lagoon.
First out of the water was Jana Koradej SLO. This year’s U23 Aquathlon champion she came to this event as a well-known swimmer and runner but would she lose it on the bike?
Just behind her was Antoanela Manac ROU who has had a busy season so far and came to this race from Geneva. 5 seconds down but still in contention was Croatia’s Sonja Škevin who last year put in a strong performance over the national long course. With these two athletes together there was a good chance for some strong biking.
It was Manac, pushing at the front again and again that kept these three in front of the chase pack and it was she who was ready first in T2.
Once out onto the run it was Koradej who showed greater pace and she had soon taken advantage with her fresher legs.
Behind her Škevin and Manac were fighting for the silver.
But behind them was Turkish athlete Ipek Öztosun and she was flying.
In the heat all athletes were taking on as much water as possible.
Koradej held strong and took gold with Manac winning the battle for silver. Škevin’s pace was dropping and Öztosun was getting faster and faster. The battle for bronze saw the Turkish athlete run 19:07 compared to Škevin’s 20:24 but she had lost too much in the first two legs to catch her and so it was gold to Slovenia, silver to Romania and bronze to a very happy Croatia.
After the race, Manac told us how the event had been for her, “very hot. I think by the time we started it was almost 30 C. I was trying to recover after the European Championships and bounce back after a bad performance there. The swimming here was good and I was in front with the Slovenian and Croatian girls and, yes it was a bit of a fight just for the first 100 m. After a long run to T1 we were off on the bike. We tried to work together but not it didn’t work out all the time. Out onto the run and it was really hard for me, because I got 10-second for a silly mistake. I really wasn’t concentrating in T2 and unclipped my helmet before racking the bike. At that point Koradej pulled away and I couldn’t catch her. But apart from that error I am so happy and proud for my work. I hope in future to collect more points.”
The Croatian Triathlon Federation (Hrvatski triatlon savez) can be rightly proud of their achievement this weekend. They have brought triathlon back to the city of Zagreb; they have staged a great Balkan Triathlon Championships and provided a significant boost to our sport in their region. The Technical delegate was happy, the athletes were happy and it was not just the Elite who went away pleased. The organisers put on championships for the Juniors and also showed off the mixed team relay format to the thousands of spectators. An open wave too, proved to be very popular.
Great thanks to Sportski savez grada Zagreba LOGO and to Goran Pozek who provided such great photos. The entire album, showing great participation for all ages, which means our sport is growing well in this region, can be seen here
Find more details about this event - 2015 Zagreb ETU Triathlon Balkan Championships