Polish throwers continue to rule

Polish dominance continued Sunday at the second and final day of the sixth European Cup Winter Throwing Championships.

Polish dominance continued Sunday at the second and final day of the sixth European Cup Winter Throwing Championships at Hadar Yosef Stadium in Tel Aviv, as Polish throwers took gold in the women's discus and men's hammer throw, adding to three golds won on Saturday. In the final event of the competition, former Olympic medalist and world champion Szymon Ziolkowski dramatically won the men's hammer on his final attempt and the second-to-last overall. Ziolkowski recorded an International-Israeli record of 79.04 meters to leapfrog Russia's Vadim Khersontsev, who had previously set the record with his silver medal-winning throw of 78.54. An International-Israeli record marks the best result ever achieved by any athlete on Israeli soil. In the earlier events, Wioletta Potepa of Poland won the women's discus, Germany's Mareike Rittweg took gold in the women's javelin and Belarus's Andrei Mikhnevich won the men's shot put. "The sixth attempt is always the toughest, especially in my first competition of the year," Ziolkowski said. "I knew I could throw over 79 meters, maybe 80. I feel like I can add two or three meters [this year] and do well in the European championships." Ziolkowski and his Polish female hammer-throwing counterpart Kamila Skolimowska won Male and Female Athlete of the Competition. "That's twice as sweet," Ziolkowski said upon learning of his and Skolimowska's honor. "It always makes me happy when hammer throwers win awards." Dmitri Shako of Belarus took the bronze a throw of 77.00. Israel's Viktor Zaginaiko (48.05) and Ivan Bukarev (46.42) finished 20th and 21st, respectively, of the 22 competitors. One of the throwers most expected to put on a show did not disappoint, as Mikhnevich won the men's shot put with an International-Israeli record of 20.61. The record had previously been set twice in the day by eccentric runner-up Gheorghe Guset from Romania, who threw for 20.41, and bronze winner Tomasz Majewski from Poland, who had initially set the record with his throw of 20.26. Mikhnevich, who last week won the silver at the World Indoor Championships in Moscow, came not for the personal accolades, but to help his country win the team competition, he said. Ultimately, the Russian teams won the team events for both men and women. Mikhnevich was stoic upon describing, via a translator, his competition-winning throw. "It's about technique," he said. "I put in all I could, and that's the best I could do." In contrast to a superstar taking care of business, the unheralded German javelin thrower Rittweg had the surprise of the day, as the 21-year-old won the gold with a personal best of 60.06 meters on her third attempt. She called it the biggest win of her career. "In practice I felt good, so I expected to do well in the competition," Rittweg said. "But I did not expect to break 60 meters." Rittweg added that she threw lower than normal to try to avoid the strong afternoon wind that the competitors were facing. Russia's Lada Chernova took silver with a throw of 59.15, and Spain's Mercedes Chilla took bronze with a throw of 57.28. Israelis Dorit Naor (40.50) and 17-year-old Noa Berman (34.21) took 19th and 20th, respectively, of 22 competitors. Potepa captured the fourth gold for the Polish earlier in the day by winning the women's discus with a throw of 61.89 meters. Russia's Oksana Yesipchuk placed second with a throw of 61.70 and Romania's Nicoleta Grasu took the bronze with a throw of 60.86. Israel's Sivan Jean placed 19th of 21 with her throw of 48.50. The Russian team finished with six silver medals - four women's and two men's - but was able to win the team competitions thanks to the overall depth of the delegations. The Israeli men's team placed sixth of 10. Israeli Athletic Association chairman Shlomo Ben-Gal was pleased with the professionalism, quality of results and overall smoothness during the two-day event, though he wished crowd turnout had been better. "Four women had better than 70 meters in the hammer and five men broke 20 in the shot put," Ben-Gal said as proof of the high level of competition. "The organization was at an Olympic level and we got very positive feedback." Ben-Gal said he felt that the IAA proved itself and he hopes that in the next few years Israel will be selected to host a major Grand Prix event or a junior European Championship. Frankie Sachs contributed to this report.