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Lalova looking to Helsinki

Ivet Lalova

Ivet Lalova

Ivet Lalova watched the last major international athletics championship held in Helsinki, the 2005 World Championships, from her hospital bed but this summer the 27-year-old Bulgarian sprinter aims to be one of the big stars at the 2012 European Athletics Championships.

The Finnish capital will play host to the event from 27 June to 1 July and Lalova is bidding to pull off a memorable 100m and 200m double, a feat that was last achieved by Belgium’s Kim Gevaert in 2006 and the great Russian athlete Irina Privalova in 1994.

“I’ve never competed in Helsinki. It was supposed to be at the World Championships in 2005, I’d finished fourth at the Olympic Games the previous year and also run 10.77 in 2004. In 2005, I won the European indoor 200m title, started well outdoors, ran 11.03 and then broke my leg,” reflected Lalova, whose only continental honours in her career so far have been the 2003 European Athletics Junior Championships 100m and 200m gold medals.

Lalova suffered a traumatic and freak accident while warming up before competing at a meeting in Athens on 14 June, 2005. Colliding with another athlete, she broke her right femur and was confined to bed and then a wheelchair for the next two months. A 36-centimetre pin was inserted to hold the bone in her lower leg together and it stayed there for three years.

“This year is revenge. Great things could have happened seven years ago, I was sure I was going to be able to fight for a medal in Helsinki and I’m really hoping that this will happen there this time.

After struggling for years to regain her former speed, although she did make the 2008 Olympic Games semi-finals, she moved to the Italian town of Rieti last April to be with her boyfriend, the Italian sprinter Simone Collio.

In turn, she was also taken under the wing of his coach Roberto Bonomi and it’s a partnership that seems to work as the results were almost immediate.

Lalova was the only European sprinter to make the IAAF World Championships 100m final last summer and she was also the fastest European over the distance with a time of 10.96, which she ran to win at the Balkan Championships in July, he best time since she ran 10.77 in 2004, which remains the second fastest performance by a European ever.

“Lots of people say that when you make a big change like your coach, you should wait at least a year to see the full results so that makes me very optimistic about what I can do in the summer. I’ve improved my power this winter, specifically I’ve been doing some squats and getting stronger.

“And I’m definitely going to double in Helsinki, I have no choice,” she joked, talking to European Athletics recently.

“I love both events but my coaching is pushing me a little more towards the 200 as he thinks that secretly I’m a really good 200m runner. But I love the 100, it’s spectacular every time.

“We also have a relay team. Bulgaria has four fast girls but the problem is we hardly ever work together. If we can overcome that issue then I think we have a chance of a medal,” added Lalova.

The Bulgarian 4x100m squad, anchored by a less-than-completely-fit Lalova, finished seventh in their heat at the 2010 European Athletics Championships but they have been on the podium for the event before, getting medals at the 1986 and 1994 editions.

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