Athletics Championships open Tuesday

Double European pole vault champion Alex Averbukh and high jump star Niki Palli will headline the field.

alex pole vaulting 88 (photo credit: )
alex pole vaulting 88
(photo credit: )
The men's high jump and pole vault competitions will once again be at the center of the Israeli Athletics Championships, which get underway at Hadar Yossef Stadium on Tuesday evening. Double European pole vault champion Alex Averbukh and high jump star Niki Palli will headline a field of some 300 athletes which will compete on Tuesday and Wednesday in the 71st edition of the championships. Three Russian jumpers, Pavel Burlachenko (personal best 5.86 meters), Yevgeniy Lukyanenko (PB 5.70m) and Leonid Kivalov (PB 5.67m), will look to push Averbukh (PB 5.93m) to heights he hasn't reached in recent years. "My goal is to jump 5.70m at least twice this summer and meet the criteria for the 2008 Beijing Games. I'm also aiming to reach the final of the World Championships," said Averbukh, who jump's on Tuesday. "I'm not pleased with my current form, but I still feel that on my day I can jump 5.90m." On Wednesday, Russian high jumper Mikhayil Tsvetkov (PB 2.30m) will be Palli's (PB 2.30m) only real quality opponent, with the Israeli hoping to clear 2.30m at the event for a second straight year. "At my current form 2.30m is the best I can hope for," Palli said. "I hope to clear that height once again this year, but my main goal is to reach the final of the World Championships." Seven Israeli athletes have already booked their place at the World Championships, which begin on August 25 in Osaka, Japan. Averbukh, Palli, 3000m steeplechase runner Itai Magidi, and marathon runners Nili Avramski, Ayele Setegne, Wodage Zvyda and Asaf Bimro, have all guaranteed a spot at this years big event. Sprinter Michael Ayalin needs to improve his current Israeli record of 13.85 seconds at the 110m hurdles by just 23 hundredths of a second to become the eighth member of the squad. "?I?m in the form of my life,? Ayalin said. "I'm constently breaking my personal bests and I hope to continue improving my results and book a spot at the World Championships." One of the most hotly contested events at the Israeli championships will be the womens shot put and discus throw. Israeli record holder 22-year-old Sivan Jan has dominated both competitions in recent years, but 23-year-old Sivan Aballi has been closing in on her rival in the last few months. Aballi's best in the shot put is just 81 centimeters short of Jan's Israeli record and she cleared 50 meters in the discus throw to set a new personal best just two weeks ago. "My results speak for themselves," said Aballi, who trains at Memphis University. "I've achieved my first goal by throwing for 50 meters in the discus and now I want to achieve my second, to clear 16 meters in the shot put. "The battle between Jan and I is the most intriguing of the championships. Averbukh and Palli are superb athletes, but we all know that they're going to win their events. The only certainty about the shot put and discus winner is that her first name will be Sivan."