ZAGREB – It has started. While Harald Edletzberger, Manager of the 2008 Zagreb Grand Prix, is in Beijing, negotiating the participation of athletes in Zagreb, Velimir Basic, Meeting Director, [:]his assistant Drazen Kroupa and members of the Organizing Committee Zoran Kovacevic, Milan Oreskovic (Secretary General of the Croatian Athletics Federation), Franjo Kordic (Secretary General of the Zagreb Athletics Association), Vladimir Mikulec (member of the Executive Committee of the Croatian Athletics Federation) and Josip Baricic (President of the Zagreb Athletics Referees Association) held a press conference at the Antunovic Hotel in Zagreb.
Director Basic presented the good news regarding the upcoming 58th Zagreb Grand Prix, locally called „Hanzek“, ranked 11th among the elite IAAF meetings, which will take place at the Mladost Stadium in Zagreb on 9 September 2008. The 2008 Zagreb Grand Prix will be held under the auspices of the Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandic and it will be organized by the Zagreb Sports Association.
„Before all, I must thank Drazen Kroupa, who was the Meeting Director for five years. The Zagreb Grand Prix is among the elite meetings thanks to his resourcefulness“ Basic said. „We expect to have at least two Olympic Champions at this year’s meeting.“ One has already been confirmed; in Beijing, Harald Edletzberger negotiated the participation of Primoz Kozmus, Olympic Champion in the men’s hammer throw. This means that this will be the first time that, besides the women’s, there will also be the men’s hammer throw at Zagreb.
„It will be a little problem because it is not easy to organize competitions with both the men’s and women’s hammer throw. They need to throw before or after other events for the safety of other competitors. I believe that we shall solve everything to the satisfaction of the audience, but also of the throwers. Women should compete at 16:30 and men at the end of the program“ Vladimir Mikulec explained.
On Tuesday, 9 September, the competition at the Mladost Sports Park will start with the men’s javelin throw, which will be a national event, at 15:00. It will continue with the women’s hammer throw at 16:00 and the Opening Ceremony will take place at 17:45. It will be broadcast live on Croatian Television.
The program will include a total of 19 events:
Men: 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 1,500 m, 3,000 m, 110 m hurdles, long jump, shot put, javelin throw, hammer throw;
Women: 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 1,000 m, 100 m hurdles, 400 m hurdles, high jump, discus throw, hammer throw.
Besides Kozmus, the participation of Blanka Vlasic, the undoubtedly brightest star of the Meeting, is certain. There will be all Croatian Olympians (Ivana Brkljacic, Sanja Gavrilovic, Vera Begic, Vanja Perisic, Nikolina Horvat, Andras Haklits, Martin Maric, Nedzad Mulabegovic and Jurica Grabusic) and Director Basic expects:
„At least two Olympic Champions and further five Olympic medallists from Beijing. In each event, we expect four athletes who are in the world’s top 30 and four who are among the top 50.“
It sounds impressive, no doubt there will be an athletics spectacle in Zagreb on 9 September.
The organizers have also secured a special prize of 30,000 Euros for a world record.
Good-Natured Giant Primoz Kozmus
Besides Blanka Vlasic, who is a trademark of the Zagreb Grand Prix, the first great star, who has confirmed his participation at Zagreb, is Slovenia’s hammer thrower Primoz Kozmus. After winning the Olympic gold medal in Beijing, Kozmus deserved to have the men’s hammer throw included in the program of the 2008 Zagreb Grand Prix because of him.
The participation of Primoz Kozmus will intensify the interest in the Zagreb Grand Prix, locally called Hanzek, among Croatia’s neighbours. Zagreb is close to the Slovenian border, the closest place, in which they will be able to see their Olympic Champion in action“, said Meeting Director Velimir Basic.
This gentle, good-natured giant from Slovenia (188 cm, 106 kg) was born in Novo Mesto on 30 September 1979. The past two years have been the most beautiful time of his career. Although he has been among the world’s elite in the hammer throw for five years, since he made the final and placed 5th at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, Kozmus waited for his first major medal until 2007. He won silver at the World Championships in Osaka, only Ivan Tikhon of Belarus was better than him. But, Kozmus made up for everything in Beijing, he bested Tikhon, Vadim Devyatovskiy, Krisztian Pars and Koji Murofushi.
His personal best is 82.30 m, the result he achieved in Bydgoszcz in 2007, and he won the Olympic gold medal with the result of 82.02. This was at the level of the best results in his career, which only the best athletes, who don’t succumb to pressure, can do at major competitions.
Before his World silver from Japan and Olympic gold, between Paris and Osaka, Primoz Kozmus participated in three more major finals: he finished 6th at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and 7th at the European Championships in Gothenburg In 2007.
Harald Edletzberger, Manager of the Zagreb Grand Prix, called from Beijing with a great piece of news. After Primoz Kozmus confirmed his participation, another Olympic Champion agreed to compete in Zagreb, as well: one of the fastest women in the world, Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica.
Campbell-Brown defended her Olympic title in the women’s 200m in Beijing. Besides those two gold medals, she has three more Olympic medals. She won on the Jamaican team in the women’s 4x100m in Athens in 2004. She also won the bronze medal in the women’s 100m there, and she had won the silver medal in the relay race in Sydney in 2000.
Veronica Campbell-Brown also had much success at World Championships: she won one gold medal (in the 100m) and two silver medals (200m, 4x100m) in Osaka in 2007 and two silver medals (200m, 4x100m) in Helsinki in 2005.
Born in Trelawny on 15 May 1982, Campbell-Brown has developed into one of the greatest sprinters Jamaica has ever had, a true successor of the great Merlene Ottey. She gave a glimpse of what was to become a great career at the World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz in 1999, where she became the first and so far the only one to win in the 100m and 200m. She still hasn’t won both sprint medals at one competition in the women’s category, but there are still many years of top level athletics in front of Veronica Campbell-Brown, so there will be time for that, as well.
A modest girl from a large family (she has nine siblings) married Jamaican sprinter Omar Brown, her colleague from the University of Arkansas, in 2007.
Veronica Campbell-Brown’s personal best in the 100m is 10.85. In Beijing, she ran 21.74 in the 200m, which is the 7th best result of all times.