30 Jul 2018

What to look out for: Perkovic goes for her fifth European discus gold

Sandra Perkovic has the chance to make history at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships, which start in little more than a week’s time on 7 August.

The Croatian discus thrower has won European titles at the last four championships and if she wins again in the German capital then she will have achieved something no other athlete –  either man or woman –  has ever done with five consultative continental crowns in the same individual discipline.

Nothing is ever certain but Perkovic will go to Berlin as the odds-on favourite to claim that fifth gold medal thanks to her impressive form in the last 12 months.

At the time of writing, she had won all nine of her competitions in 2018 and has a winning streak of 14 outings which stretches back more than a year, which started when she competed in the Italian town of Bellinzona last July and threw a stunning 71.41m, the best mark in the world for 25 years.

Although Perkovic has suffered a handful of defeats in the last few years, including notably at the 2015 IAAF World Championships by Cuba’s Denia Caballero, you have to go back to 2010 for the last time she was beaten in direct competition by a European thrower.

However, Perkovic sensibly is not taking anything for granted despite history seemingly being on her side and the fact that she is more than six metres better than the next best European, Germany’s Claudine Vita, in 2018.

There will be lots of girls challenging [for medals in Berlin], there is a lot of respect between us. Everyone knows that I want to be number one and that no other number is interesting, but they also know that I can have a bad day.

“The German girls will be strong in Berlin, there are five to seven of them who are strong but there are only three tickets to be invited to the championships and we know that Germany has always had good discus throwers – the world record holders are both German, Gabriele Reinsch and Jurgen Schult – but maybe it’s time one little Croatian girl takes the title in Germany,” she joked.

Although her stated stats are 183 centimetres high and a weight of 80 kilogramme compared to some of her rivals – for instance Germany’s two-time world championships medallist Nadine Muller comes in 10cm taller and 10kg heavier – she is indeed somewhat slightly built, relatively speaking.

Perkovic is relishing a return to the Berlin Olympic Stadium, having not competed there since she was a teenager nine years ago.

“I really like Berlin, it was there that I had my first big senior competition, the world championships in 2009, I’ve only got good memories and good emotions for the city. I can’t wait to return and try to defend my title there and I know that if I win it’ll be the first time in history [of the European Athletics Championships] that somebody has won five titles [consecutively in the same individual discipline].

“It’s nice to think that nine years later, I’m back in the same city where everything started, where I started to throw very far and where I started to become a good discus thrower,” she enthused.

Despite all her accolades and honours, Perkovic has no problem with motivation and is clearly anything but complacent.

“I just love the sport and I love discus throwing. I like to look good, I like to travel but the happiest person on earth is Sandra Perkovic when she’s throwing the discus more than 70 metres.

“I love track and field and I just want to stay healthy and compete [at the top] for 10 more years. It’s an individual sport so how much you work means how much pleasure you will get at the end. I couldn’t ask for a better combination.”

In addition to climbing to the top of the podium, Perkovic also has one other aim in Berlin, a hug from the popular championship mascot Berlino who, remembering his antic with local star Robert Harting in 2009, seems to have an affinity for discus throwers.

“I didn’t really get to meet Berlino back in 2009 because I didn’t win at that championship (she finished ninth). I don’t think I’ll be able to pick Berlino up like Robert Harting did then… but if Robert is around this time, maybe he can help me!

“Being serious, I actually don’t want to talk about taking a gold as you never know what can happen. I’m wishing and dreaming about the gold and I’m going to give my best to try to get it.”

If the cards fall in her favour, then not just gold but also the championship record could be hers.

Diana Gansky of what was then East Germany threw 71.36m at the 1986 European Athletics Championships in Stuttgart. With Perkovic having thrown further than that this year, leading the world lists with her 71.38m from the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, maybe another German host city will witness some even more spectacular distances.