News18 Mar 2022

Serbia's oldest road race honoured with Heritage Plaque


Sebastian Coe presents the Heritage Plaque to Snezana Pajkic (© Katarina Brankovic / WIC Belgrade 22)

During a brief ceremony held at the MOWA Indoor Athletics Heritage Exhibition in Belgrade's Stark Arena on Friday (18), World Athletics President Sebastian Coe awarded the World Athletics Heritage Plaque to the Memorial Aleksandar Aca Petrovic street race.

Coe presented the plaque to Snezana Pajkic, Serbia’s 1990 European 1500m champion.

Pajkic represented Dragan Zdravkovic, a member of the organising committee of the Memorial Aleksandar Aca Petrovic, who was to have received the plaque but could not attend the ceremony having contracted covid.

Zdravkovic, 1983 European 3000m indoor champion, is a running contemporary of Coe, finishing ninth behind the eventual two-time Olympic 1500m champion in Moscow 1980.

The World Athletics Heritage Plaque, a location-based recognition, is awarded for “an outstanding contribution to the worldwide history and development of the sport of track and field athletics and of out of stadia athletics disciplines such as cross country, mountain, road, trail and ultra-running, and race walking”.

The Memorial Aleksandar Aca Petrovic, which was founded in 1945, is among the most historic street races in Europe and is the oldest running competition on the roads in Serbia.

It has been staged annually in the streets of Cuprija, after being first organised in October 1945 in celebration of Liberation Day.

Aleksandar Petrovic, after who the event is named, was the coach to Serbia’s Vera Nikolic, the 800m world record-breaker (1968), and three European champions Nikolic (800m, 1966 and 1971), Zdravkovic (3000m, 1983 indoor) and Pajkic (1500m, 1990).

The senior race is run over 3km and is one of 17 races held during the afternoon, including those for U18, U20 and veteran athletes, creating an annual festival of running in the heart of the city.

The top runners who have graced the Memorial over the years include Nikolic, Mirko Petrovic, Miroslav Pavlovic, Vladan Dordevic, Pajkic, Zdravkovic, Zora Tomicic and Dejan Pajkic. There has also been a regular international contingent including athletes from Bulgaria, Kenya and Turkey, including in 2017, when the elite race was won by Joel Maina Mwangi from Kenya.

Until his death in 2006, Professor Aca Petrovic had been the organiser of 60 editions of the event.

Chris Turner for World Athletics Heritage