The Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora will once again stage the European Team Championships Second League, on 19-20 June 2021, just six years after it last staged this competition.
On that occasion, the host nation gained promotion when they were helped immeasurably by a sprint treble from Ivet Lalova-Collio - one of the most successful performers in European Athletics Team Championships history - and hopes are high that their talismanic 2012 European 100m champion will be able to answer her country’s call once more and again be a major contributor of points.
Lalova-Collio will be 37 by the time the competition takes place but on 2020 times – having run 11.31 in Rieti this summer – she remains the fastest women from the 12 competing nations in Stara Zagora.
The hosts also have strength in the women’s jumps as well not least thanks to high jumper Mirela Demireva, silver medallist at the last two European Athletics Championships and a winner in the 2019 Second League, who will not lack for support as she is a member of the local club Beroe Stara Zagora.
The 12-team Second League also features Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia – all of whom were relegated from the First League in 2019 – while Iceland who topped the Third League standings in 2019 could also be vying for their second successive promotion.
Hosts for the 2021 European Athletics Team Championships:— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) November 17, 2020
Super League - Chorzow
First League - Cluj-Napoca
Second League - Stara Zagora
Third League - Nicosia pic.twitter.com/Bl55okJf2f
Hungary were relegated by a margin of just 2.5 points in 2019 and will undoubtably be looking to their throwers to contribute good points in their bid for an immediate return to the First League. They could potentially field 2019 World Athletics Championships hammer bronze medallist Bence Halasz and reigning world indoor shot put champion Anita Marton.
Lithuania will be counting on 2017 discus world champion Andrius Gudzius to aid their challenge, but he could face Austria’s Lukas Weisshaidinger in what might be one of the stellar events of the weekend.
A target for the pair is Gerd Kanter’s European Team Championships record of 68.76m, from the 2010 First League meeting, which both men have actually bettered during their careers.
Denmark’s double 2019 European U23 champion Anna Emilie Moller could be the star of the distance events but may possibly face Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter in at least one event, and which the latter may be Europe’s leading marathon runner at the moment she has considerable prowess over shorter distancers on the track.
The 12,000 capacity Beroe Stadium in Stara Zagora has not only hosted the European Team Championships Second League before but also staged the Balkan Championships twice in the last decade, in 2013 and 2018, as well as being the home to the Bulgarian First Division football club PFC Beroe Stara Zagora.
However, perhaps the track’s most famous athletics claim to fame is Yordanka Donkova’s 100m world record of 12.21 set at the 1988 Bulgarian national championships no one was able to better until 2016.
Conditions in Stara Zagora should be conducive to some outstanding performances, even if athletes don’t reach the height of Donkova’s feat, as daytime temperatures in mid-June often hover around the mid-20s degrees Celsius and rain is very rare at this time of year.