Bellinzona

The season is heading to its first highlight, the European Championships. This means athletes are aiming to seriously test themselves against other international athletes.

The Galà dei Castelli, named after Bellinzona’s three UNESCO World Heritage castles, is a nice summer-night meeting. No wonder the athletes love it. Perfect conditions and super friendly hosts.

Taking an international point of view, the most striking result were the 7.04m in the long jump by USA’s Brittney Reese. The Olympic Champion of 2012 and three times World Champion was very consistent in length, had some faults, though.

From a Swiss point of view the highlight was the European Champion’s victory over the 400m Hurdles. Kariem Hussein ran his first sub 49er this season and clocked with 48.98 secs. Later, I met him in the hotel restaurant, and he was really pleased with the result.

The Swiss also cheered for Lea Sprunger who won the women’s 400m H event. 55.83secs were a very good result, although experts might have expected more (in fact, one week later, she clocked 54.92 in Geneva).

Another world class result was delivered by Germany’s Julia Fischer. She threw impressive  64.57m in the discus. Her training collegue Anna Ruh finished second with 61.97m.

Who is the Swiss spectator’s darling? Perhaps/certainly, Mujinga Kambundji. In fact, it’s extremely difficult not to like her. Alas, she is still seeking her form from the previous year. Would Bellinzona be the breakthrough? Not quite. A windstill 11.34secs over the 100m is not bad, but far less than in the previous year when she set up a new Swiss record. She lost the race to Bulgaria’s Ivet Lalova who won in 11.20 ahead of Ukraine’s Natalia Pohrebnyak (11.26).

The hosts and the home spectators were super happy with Ajla del Ponte and her really nice performance. In the heat the young runner from nearby Ascona excited the crowd with a new PB which she improved again when won the B final in 11.57secs. She really enjoyed the success in her (almost) home stadium.

Similar to Mujinga, Selina Büchel is still waiting for her top form to come. Last year the 800m runner had a phantastic winning streak over 800m that ended – in Bellinzona. Back then, she was just over her form peak. This year she took a slower start. Bellinzona was only her second serious race over 800m with rising instead of declining form. She scratched the 2min margin and hopefully will improve as the season goes on. The race was won by Poland’s Angelika Cichocka in 1:59.97.

The men’s 5000m were a Kenyan event. Cornelius Kangogo won in 13:12.54, just tyne 13/100sec ahead of Victor Chumo.