Pavel Maslák returns to 200m and could spring a surprise
Czech rising sprint star Pavel Maslák surprised many people when he finished fifth over 400m at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul earlier this month.
However, the 2011 European Athletics U23 Championships 200m bronze medallist will be concentrating more on the shorter distance this summer as he bids to get on the podium at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki.
“My goal this summer is not only to win a medal in Helsinki and do well at the Olympics but to also to improve the national record at 200m,”said Maslák, who is still only 21.
The one and only Czech sprinter to get a 200m medal at the European Athletics Championships is Jirí David, who got a bronze back in 1946, so Maslák could join some very select company if he succeeds in the first of his ambitions.
Maslák also has in his sights Jirí Vojtik's national 200m record of 20.60, which was set in 2008, but the new kid in his blocks went very close to that last summer when he clocked 20.63 in his heat at the World Championships in Daegu.
“I am also thinking perhaps about the 400m Czech record (45.77, which has belonged to Karol Kolar since 1978), that's almost 34-years-old,” added Maslak, outlining his list of targets to European Athletics recently.
“But I know I have to work even harder to perform well outdoors. However, I just hope there will be a lot Czech fans in Helsinki because, in Istanbul, I heard them shouting for me and it helped me a lot.”
After a great start to 2012, Maslák has every reason to feel optimistic about his chances of success this summer.
He went to the World Indoor Championships earlier this month just hoping to get to the semi-finals, after not making it beyond his 400m heat at the 2011 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
In the end, Maslák excelled and he was the only European in the final over two laps of the track at the Ataköy Arena, clocking 46.19 for his second best time after having set a Czech indoor 400m record with 46.14 in the Belgian city of Gent in February.
Despite being the continent's first man home in Istanbul, Maslák also tempered his achievement with a dose of reality.
“(Despite what happened in Istanbul) If this was a European championship then everything would be different. It does not mean that I would be the winner. The British were very strong this winter but, in Turkey, they did not have much luck.
“My coach Dalibor Kupka (the same coach as decathlon legend Roman Sebrle) and I think that I need to mature to become a good 400m runner. I think I need some four or five years before I can run with the very best in the longer event. I think the best chances of success for me will be at 200m this year,” reflected Maslák, who is easy to spot on the track thanks to the long elastic slaves he wears during competitions.
“They bring me luck. I originally wanted to be seen by other runners but I hope that people will now remember me also for my results,” he added.