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Tel Aviv will host the biggest and most prestigious track & field event in Israeli history in less than two weeks when over 200 participants from some 31 countries - including some of the best athletes in the world - take part in the sixth European Cup in Winter Throwing.
The competition, set for March 18-19 at Hadar Yosef Stadium, will feature Europe's top individuals and teams in the four throwing events - discus, hammer, javelin and shot put.
The only major European country that will not be represented is Great Britain because the competition overlaps with the Commonwealth Games.
Although the final list of participants will not be finalized until Wednesday night, the Israel Athletics Association said that the preliminary list promises a host of former Olympic gold medal winners, world champions and world-record holders. According to organizing committee member Arik Cooks, the highlight of the event could be the women's hammer throw, with six participants having reached the prestigious 70-meter mark, bringing the competition to the level of the Olympic final.
Half-a-million shekels have been invested in upgrading the stadium and equipment for the event. The IAA has been vying to host a competition of this caliber for over a decade. Chairman Shlomo Ben-Gal hopes that it will be used to boost future athletic competitions in Israel and will help jumpstart the throwing field in Israel.
Israel will be represented by 11 athletes, two men in each competition and three women, although only two - Vadim Bavikin (javelin) and Sivan Jean (discus and shot put) - would be competing if the event were overseas. The Israeli team will hold a competition on Wednesday at which the athletes will need to prove their fitness to be on the final list before the registration deadline.
Among the better-known names on the initial list is Belorussian Ellina Zvereva, 45, who became the oldest Olympic gold medal winner when she won the discuss competition at Sydney 2000. The other confirmed competitors with Olympic golds are Polish hammer throwers Kamila Skolimowska and Szymon Zi lkowski.
Romanian Mihaela Melinte is a former world champ in the hammer throw and her 76.07-meter result in 1999 was a world record for nearly six years before being eclipsed twice in 2005.
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