hurdle running 88.
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Preparations for the 70th annual Israeli Track & Field Championships officially got under way Wednesday with a press conference in Tel Aviv with six top athletes and a host of Israeli Athletics Association board members on hand.
The championships, set for July 11-12 at Hadar Yosef in Tel Aviv, will feature all of Israel's top athletes, as well as guests from another 10 countries, who should help to bring the best out of the local contingent.
IAA board member Arik Cooks stressed the pole vault, where reigning European champ Alex Averbukh will compete against young Russian talents Andrey Chemov and Sergey Kucheryanu; the high jump, where rising Israeli star Niki Palli will compete with Russia's Mikhail Tsvetkov; and the 400 meters, where some eight Israeli runners have broken the 50-second barrier this season, as the events with the most potential to thrill.
The championships will be among the last opportunities Israeli athletes have to meet their respective criteria for the upcoming European championships in Goteborg, Sweden, this August.
"We have a lot of young talent," national team captain and discus champ Lior Peretz said. "I expect not just to see some national records broken, but also many personal bests set."
Palli, who will be crowned as Athlete of the Year on the first night, is without a doubt the biggest star among the young generation. The 20-year-old, who will compete in Goteborg this summer and a week later at the world junior championships in Beijing, China, said he hopes to achieve a personal best of 2.30 meters at the championships.
"This is only Niki's fifth season [as a high jumper], so we feel there is still room for improvement," his coach Albert Funjin said.
When asked about Palli's potential, he said, "I'm afraid to say how far he can go." Tickets are already on sale for the competition, which will also be broadcast on Channel 1.
The Israeli championships have taken place every year since 1934, with the exception of 1954 and '58, when political disputes between the Maccabi and Hapoel sports unions torpedoed the games.
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