The coronavirus pandemic put the European Throwing Cup in danger of being cancelled for the second successive season but thankfully for Europe’s throwing exponents, the event will be going ahead this year albeit on different dates and in a different location.
Initially due to take place Leiria, Portugal in its traditional mid-March slot, the event will now be heading east to Split, Croatia on 8-9 May when the European Throwing Cup will be celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Split seems a suitable place as any to celebrate this landmark as Croatia had the distinction of coming away with two gold medals in the throwing events at the 2016 Olympics, a feat matched only by Germany and the United States. And the good news for the organisers is that both Sandra Perkovic and Sara Kolak have been named on Croatia’s provisional team for Split.
This will also be the third time Croatia has staged the European Throwing Cup after Pula held the second edition in 2002 before Split hosted the 2008 when Perkovic made her senior debut for Croatia at the age of 17.
Croatia will become just the third country after Spain and Portugal to have staged three editions of the European Throwing Cup which is arguably the most well-travelled of all European competitions. Over the last two decades, event being staged as far afield as Tenerife in Spain and Tel Aviv in Israel.
The European Throwing Cup was first staged in Nice, France for the first time on 9-10 March 2001 under its initial alias of the European Winter Throwing Challenge. As part of the rapid expansion of the continental calendar in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, the event was introduced ostensibly to offer European throwers a high quality international event ahead of the summer season and an early opportunity to achieve the qualifying standards for upcoming summer championships.
Less than 150 athletes from 21 nations took part in the first edition in Nice but the event has expanded substantially over the last two decades. Initially a senior-only event for the first six editions, separate U23 events were added to the programme from 2007 and have remained a permanent fixture since then. This year, more than 400 athletes from 43 countries have registered their interest in competing according to the provisional entries.
One of the most successful athletes in the history of the European Throwing Cup is reigning Olympic silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon from France who was present for the first edition of the event in 2001.
Robert-Michon won a bronze medal on that occasion and has since amassed an unsurpassed total of 10 podium finishes at the European Throwing Cup, including victories in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
And even though Robert-Michon isn’t competing at this year’s edition of the European Throwing Cup, the French veteran is still going strong at the age of 41. She has already set a season’s best of 63.43m this year which represents her 19th season in which she has surpassed the 60 metre-line since 1999.
Another legend of the European Throwing Cup is the now-retired Estonian discus thrower Gerd Kanter who won the event six times between 2003 and 2009, setting a still-standing championship record of 69.70m to claim his sixth and final victory in the discus in the benign sunshine in Tenerife in 2009.
Another championship record which will surely stand the test of time - unless he breaks it himself - is the men’s javelin record of 92.70m set by Germany’s Johannes Vetter in Leiria in 2018. Vetter’s mark added almost seven metres to the event record which was set only one year earlier by his compatriot Julian Weber in Las Palmas on the Balearic island of Majorca in Spain.
World hammer record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk from Poland also features on the roll-of-honour and on the list of championship records. Wlodarczyk gave notice of her immensurate ability when she handed reigning world champion Betty Heidler a surprise defeat when Split held the European Throwing Cup in 2008 before retaining her crown one year later when she set the championship record of 75.05m in Tenerife.
Other notable Polish hammer winners include the late Kamila Skolimwska and Szymon Ziółkowski - both 2000 Olympic champions - who took a Polish double in 2006, and reigning four-time world champion Pawel Fajdek who took victories at the European Throwing Cup in both 2014 and 2018.
In senior events, hosts Croatia have only amassed one victory courtesy of hammer thrower Ivana Brkljacic in 2005 but Croatian throwers have been successful in the U23 events. In one of her very few past appearances at the European Throwing Cup, Sandra Perkovic won the U23 title in Bar, Montenegro in 2012 with a championship record 67.19m and her teammate Martin Markovic holds the corresponding U23 men’s record with 63.24m.
In other events, reigning Olympic javelin champion Sara Kolak has won gold and silver medals at U23 event while Marija Tolj followed in Perkovic’s footsteps by winning the U23 discus title in 2019, a title she is eligible to defend in Split next month.