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Matea Parlov Kostro: How she became a Croatian Sports Star

The German roads are much to Matea Parlov Kostro’s liking. Within little more than six months she has celebrated both the biggest success of her career to date and her greatest win. In August 2022 she won the silver medal at the European Championships in Munich which turned her at a stroke into a Croatian Sports Star.

This was the first medal won by a Croatan woman in a running event in almost a century of the European Championships. Then in May this year she enjoyed her biggest victory so far. The athlete from Zagreb won the Hanover Marathon, breaking both the course record and her personal best with 2:25:45. This performance placed the 31-year-old firmly among the very best of the European marathon running elite. Now she will run Sunday’s Mainova Frankfurt Marathon. 

“I decided to run the Mainova Frankfurt Marathon because it’s a fast race with a high-quality field. I always feel good when I run in Germany, that was another factor in Frankfurt’s favour. Another reason was that I am so looking forward to the spectacular run to the finish line in the Festhalle,” explained Matea Parlov Kostro before Sunday’sMainova Frankfurt Marathon. “My form is better than ever, the performances in training are better than before the European Championships. I have had a slight cold but feel good now.”

"I’m happy that I no longer have to worry about making the Olympic qualifying time, I’ve made sure of my ticket to Paris. But I want to run a personal best so, of course, there’s always some form of pressure to perform.”

Her first sport wasn’t running but handball. “Then one day a sports teacher asked if I wanted to run a 600m race on the track for the school. It meant I didn’t have to go to school that day, so I did it, not that I was bad at my studies, on the contrary.” She finished third off no specific training and her talent was immediately evident. The Croatian’s career was off and running.

At first she ran middle distance but did not have enough speed over 800 and 1500m to make an impression internationally. Her performances over the longer distances were better, however. She ran 9:08.49 for a Croatian record over 3,000m. Road racing offered still more potential and she has concentrated on this more since 2018, making her marathon debut in Berlin in that year with 2:38:05. She had made great strides since then, literally. At the Valencia Marathon in 2020 she emerged from the lockdown of the Corona pandemic to break 2:30 for the first time, running 2:28:52. This ensured Olympic qualification. Competing in the 2021 Olympic, held in Sapporo, she achieved a highly creditable 21st place in extreme heat.

She made big improvement on her shorter distance speed as well in 2022, running a personal best for 10km of 31:54 in Berlin, which stood her in good stead for her eventual silver medal in the marathon at the European Championships later that year. 

This race transformed her life. “Without a medal, you’re a nobody in Croatia, but when you win one, you’re a star overnight,” explained Matea Parlov Kostro. “I don’t earn much more money but am regularly invited to appear on TV programmes and people speak to me on the street and want to take a photo of me, especially after a training run when they’ve seen me.”

What does she think of the stupendous women’s world record by the Ethiopian Tigst Assefa, running 2:11:53 in Berlin? “When I saw the time, I was shocked. I wouldn’t have thought it possible that a woman could run so fast. And she didn’t show any weakness during the race after 30 kilometres, it was astonishing.”

The best Europeans have in the past consistently achieved high finishing places and even won medals at the Olympic Games. Asked if she dreamed of winning an Olympic medal in Paris, Matea Parlov Kostro replied: “Of course, an Olympic medal is the dream. But that’s not realistic, the African women are simply too strong.”

(10/28/2023) Views: 462 ⚡AMP
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Mainova Frankfurt Marathon

Mainova Frankfurt Marathon

Frankfurt is an unexpectedly traditional and charming city, with half-timbered buildings huddled in its quaint medieval Altstadt (old city), cosy apple wine taverns serving hearty regional food, village-like neighbourhoods filled with outdoor cafes, boutiques and street art, and beautiful parks, gardens and riverside paths. The city's cache of museums is second in Germany only to Berlin’s, and its nightlife...

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