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Leading Ukrainian field eventers to challenge for medals in Torun

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Four of Ukraine's five medals at the last European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow came in the field events and the Ukrainian cohort competing in Torun are poised to be similarly successful on the in-field from 4-7 March.

But what the Ukrainian team in Glasgow two years ago lacked was a gold medal from their travelling contingent to the Emirates Arena. However, they will have two excellent title candidates in the high jump with perennial two metre-plus performers Yuliya Levchenko and Yaroslava Mahuchikh both planning to compete in Torun.

Still only 23, Levchenko will be looking to complete the full set of European indoor medals. She won her first major senior medal as a teenager with bronze in Belgrade before improving to silver in Glasgow behind reigning world and European champion Mariya Lasitskene.

Levchenko, who has been training at home in Ukraine this winter, opened her competitive season at the Christmas Starts in Kyiv where she showed good early season shape with a 1.96m clearance on her first attempt.

“We have a wonderful arena in Berezniaky where we continue to train in the winter. If I'm lucky I will have two or three international tournaments but this still needs to be confirmed because some countries are cancelling and postponing competitions so I can't say anything for sure yet,” Levchenko told the Ukraine Athletic Federation in a recent interview.

After missing some key domestic competitions in 2020 due to injuries and schedule conflicts, Levchenko is also looking forward to taking part in two big events on the Ukrainian calendar including her national indoor championships. This could prove to be one of the most competitive women's high jump competitions of the entire winter season given the depth of talent in the Ukrainian ranks.

“My coach also plans that we will perform at the Ukrainian Indoor Team Championships and at the Ukrainian Indoor Championship. These are competitions we are always preparing for...and of course, the European Indoor Championships in March. If all goes well with health, we will do a full indoor season without missing any competitions.”

Levchenko finished second at the Christmas Starts meetings behind the precocious 19-year-old Mahuchikh who showed formidable early season form with a first-time clearance at 2.02m to equal her indoor lifetime best. 

The European U18 and U20 champion didn’t register a single failure between 1.80m and 2.02m and she concluded her campaign by taking three attempts at 2.04m. This would have matched her outright lifetime best which was set at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.

“After a successful attempt at 2.02m, I ordered a height of 2.04m. If I cleared it, it would have been a new national record. The second attempt was not bad, but before the third I had to measure the run-up again,” rued Mahuchikh.

On her plans for the rest of the indoor season, she said: “As for the competitions, I was sent invitations for competitions in Udine at the end of January and in Banská Bystrica on February 2. We will also prepare for the European Indoor Championships in March.”

World and European long jump silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk began her season with a rare outing in the 60m in Kyiv where she clocked 7.58, just 0.01 shy of her lifetime best in the event.

This augurs well for Bekh-Romanchuk's upcoming competitions in the long jump but like with so many athletes, her competition schedule is yet to be fully confirmed. However, the European Indoor Championships in Torun is a key competition on her calendar.

“It’s still hard to say when I will compete because the calendar is still not confirmed. We still do not know what will be held in Europe, because many competitions are canceled or postponed. In addition, there are very few women's long jump competitions on the programme this year. 

“I hope that there will be at least two tournaments abroad and I will be able to compete against good company. But everything is so unstable that I do not know what will happen. However, we plan to take part in the European Indoor Championships which will be held in Torun,” she said.

Bekh-Romanchuk won bronze in the long jump in Glasgow 2019 behind Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic who won the title for the third successive time.