As the successor of the world-famous Budapest Grand Prix of the 1980s, the Gyulai István Memorial – Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix was first organised in 2011.
The aim of the organising team consisting of just a few persons was to put Hungary back to the map of international athletics after a break of almost two decades and to increase the popularity of athletics in Hungary with the help of the competition.
The name of István Gyulai proved to be an excellent key word for the athletes and managers of the world. The tournament was commenced in the fifth year following the early decease of István Gyulai. Thus, the competition is named after one of the most well-known and well-respected Hungarian sports diplomats, former secretary general of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), general secretary of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) for a decade and a half, 28-time Hungarian athletics champion, winner of the Universiade and Olympic athlete.
In the midst of the economic crisis it was possible to build up a one-day athletics competition almost from scratch, with the participation of reigning Olympic and world champions as well as world-record holders already in its first year, reaching the best results of all time in Hungary, or even the world’s best result in 2011. Asafa Powell (JAM) won with 9.90 in the preliminary heat, then with 9.86 in the final, which has allowed him to be the owner of the best 100 metres time achieved in Hungary ever since. In the same year, there was no one throwing farther than the Olympic silver medallist Zoltán Kővágó (HUN) (Szolnoki Honvéd), whose discus landed at 69.50 metres. The Gyulai István Memorial was immediately recognized by the public and was put 33rd in the world ranking of one-day tournaments, indicating that the competition is to be reckoned with in the future.
In 2012 the Gyulai István Memorial – Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix was organised one week after the London Summer Olympics, on 20 August, the national day of the foundation of the Hungarian state. The event with fireworks was visited by new Olympic champions, returning legends and spectators who filled the stands almost completely. Krisztián Pars (HUN) took the field for the first time after his Olympic victory and defended his title he had won a year before, just as Christian Taylor (USA), who did the same in triple jump.
The year 2013 was the last to organise the event in the Ferenc Puskás Stadium, and at the same time, the first that the competition found its own, present place in the international competition calendar. In its most popular year, nearly 1 million spectators viewed the Gyulai István Memorial – Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix on television on 10 July. World champions missed the first place by one centimetre or one hundredth, or appeared as special guest stars, such as Yohan Blake (JAM). Kim Collins (SKN) ran 100 metres in less then 10 seconds again, and Warren Weir (JAM) came very near to his aim, but the timer stopped at 20.01 following the 200 metres final. In 2013 the Gyulai István Memorial – Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix was the 20th best one-day competition in the world.
In 2014 the tournament found its new home in Székesfehérvár, in the Bregyo Athletics Centre, which had been handed over not long before. The Grand Prix provided the spectators who filled the stands almost completely with a record number of athletes, events and results never seen before. Krisztián Pars (HUN) broke his personal record after 8 years, and he won the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge series. With his victory of 2.38 m in high jump, the world champion Bohdan Bondarenko (UKR) broke the best outdoor result of all time achieved in Hungary. For the first time in the history of the Memorial, Tianna Bartoletta (USA) won in two events as no one could defeat her either in 100 m or in long jump.
In the second year in Székesfehérvár more Olympic and world champions announced their participation in the tournament to be organised on 7 July than in any previous year. Beside the world’s two best athletes, Justin Gatlin (USA) and Mutaz Essa Barhsim (QAT), numerous previous champions returned to the venue of their success. The world champion Sergey Shubenkov (RUS), the world-record holder Anita Wlodarczyk (POL) and the young talent from the Bahamas, Steven Gardiner, none of them could be defeated. Among others, the world-record holder Aries Merritt (USA), the Olympic and world champions Gerd Kanter (EST) and LaShawn Merritt (USA), the living legend Veronica Campbell-Brown (JAM) and the world champions Robert Malachowski and Pawel Fajdek (POL) also entered the even stronger competition. In 2015 the Gyulai István Memorial was the world’s best one-day competition, apart from the IAAF Diamond League series.
In the year of the Rio Olympics not only the competitors and their trainers, but also the organisers were under extreme pressure. Getting to the Olympics and coping with the competition is not only an opportunity, but also serious responsibility, therefore it was visible in the field of participants how much was at stake in 2016. For the first time in 2016, the István Gyulai Memorial – Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix became a two-day event and was completed with numerous Super League, Hungarian League and junior events, with the aim of providing more opportunities for the young athletes in Hungary.
And the results spoke for themselves in the international competition. The world-record holder David Rudisha (KEN) won in 800 m with world best time, then he won his second Olympic gold medal in Brazil. Kirani James (GRN) was confident and won in 400 m, but there were also surprising results in more events. The previous world champion Donald Thomas (BAH) defeated the competition record holder Bohdan Bondarenko (UKR) in high jump, and a new star was born, Akani Simbine (RSA), who did not only defeat Asafa Powell (JAM) in 100 m, but also achieved a new national record with 9.89 and won in 200 m, as well. It was a particular pleasure that Balázs Baji (HUN) won in 110 m hurdles. The Hungarian record holder defeated, among others, Omar McLeod (JAM), who later became an Olympic champion.
In the seventh year one of our dreams came true! Since the existence of the Memorial we had been determined to put the competition on the same level with the IAAF Diamond League events, the one-day athletics series registered at the highest level in the world. It was achieved in 2017, and the Gyulai István Memorial – Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix ended the year in 14th place and ranked higher than Bislett Games, the famous IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo, with a history of more than 50 years.
For the historic success there was a need for sensational results, such as the victory of the American world-record holder Keni Harrison with 12.28 in 100 m hurdles, or the competition record of the Jamaican Olympic champion Omar McLeod with 12.96 in 110 m hurdles. Balázs Baji (HUN) did not disappoint this time either, he thanked the audience for encouraging him with a significant Hungarian record, and he came fourth with 13.15. The Hungarian Zoltán Kővágó won in discus throwing (65.57 m), and Anita Márton won in shot put (19.48 m). Justin Gatlin (USA) ran for the first time within 10 seconds in Székesfehérvár, and he saved his title with 9.98. The South-African Rushwal Samaai celebrated his first guest performance in Hungary with a 8.34 m competition record. The form of the world championships bronze medallist was proved by the fact that all his five valid attempts were bigger than 8.20 m. This time the world champion Pawel Fajdek (POL) could only come close to his own competition record, still, he proved to be better than all the other athletes by almost 5 metres. Since his result of 82.64 m from 2009 only he and Krisztián Pars have been able to throw bigger in the world.
For the first time in the history of the competition the Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH) ran 400 m in less than 50 seconds, and Kori Carter (USA), who became world champion later, also won with competition record in 400 m hurdles with 54.22. The world-record holder Anita Wlodarczyk (POL) remained undefeated and with 77.77 m she won for the fourth time after each other in the history of the Gyulai István Memorial. The most successful athlete of the competition is still the American Tianna Bartoletta. After 2014 and 2016 the sprinter, who is world-record holder with the 4×100 m relay, also won the long jump event with 6.79 m in 2017. With her victory in 100 m from 2014, she has four gold medals like Wlodarczyk, but she has a second, third and fifth place in 100 m, as well.
In 2018 the competition exceeded every previous expectation, mostly because of the overall results. The world’s best athletes competed against each other in not less than 20 international events for two days. As a result, Sergey Shubenkov won in 110 m hurdles with the world’s best result (12.92 seconds), and he set a new competition record with this. Likewise, Mutaz Essa Barshim had to “be satisfied” with the competition record and the world’s best result of 2018 in high jump. The world champion from Quatar effortlessly leaped over 240 cm, and when he attempted a new world record of 246 cm some considered in the stadium that the bar would stay up. He almost completed, however, he knocked off the bar incomprehensively.
In both one-lap hurdle events the competition record list was modified. First, Yasmani Copello from Turkey made history with 48.93 seconds, then Janieve Russel from Jamaica broke the record set less than a year before. She set the new record at 54.16 seconds. Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the Olympic champion from the Bahamas improved the record set by herself in 400 m, and she came in with 49.53. Furthermore, Christian Taylor, who is a bit of a legend returned to the Gyulai István Memorial after five years of break. To the great satisfaction of the audience, the two-time Olympic and three-time world champion triple jumper improved his best competition result to 17.36 m.
Thanks to the records, as well, the Gyulai István Memorial achieved the best result on the All-Athletics.com computer-based world rankings following the 14 meetings of the IAAF Diamond League. As a result, the Memorial saved its place as the biggest and most prestigious athletics tournament in the region.
The competition is to be organised on Tuesday, 9 July 2019, in the Regional Athletic Centre of Székesfehérvár.
In 2019 the meeting was reduced to a single day of competition in Székesfehérvár. All 17 international and both national underage events were traditionally staged on a Tuesday, 9 July involving some of the best athletes of the world.
The statisticians registered four new meeting records, two national records, a continental record and two world leads at the end of the day. Moreover, we were particularly proud of welcoming back such legends as double Olympic and triple world champion Christian Taylor (USA) Olympic and world champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH), world record holder Kendra Harrison (USA) or the all time great hammer thrower Pawel Fajdek (POL).
Miller-Uibo and Taylor set new meeting records. The queen of sprints opted for the shorter distance in 2019 and won the 200m with 22.18, while Taylor landed at 17.68m in a special triple jump competition that was exclusively broadcasted online for the first time ever. Fans followed the live stream from all corners of the world.
The fastest man in the world, Christian Coleman (USA) also set a meeting record in the half-lap event, clocking 19.91 and setting an all-comers record for Hungary.
Genezebe Dibaba arrived in Hungary with the intention of setting a new world record in the 2000m event. Although she barely missed the mark, still managed to set a world lead and a new meeting record clocking 5:33.76.
Some new stars were undoubtedly born in 2019. Grant Holloway (USA) arrived in Hungary looking to compete in his first ever professional meet as the reigning NCAA champion. The world-class field did not scare the Florida native as he comfortably won with 13.16 before he went on to claim the world championship gold a few months later in Doha. The story of the University of Florida graduate is very similar to that of one of his compatriots. In 2011, Christian Taylor arrived in Budapest virtually unknown to the international athletics scene, but has won everything he possibly could since then. We certainly wish for Grant Holloway to be able to say the same in a few year’s time, and of course to return to the Gyulai István Memorial – Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix as well.
In 2019 – just like in previous years – the meeting was ranked 15th in the world, right behind the IAAF Diamond League competitions. Once again the results on the track were greatly supported by the excited and active fans in the stadium.
Nowhere in the world has the year 2020 succeeded as planned. While the Gyulai István Memorial is now officially one of the best one-day competitions in the world, as it has become part of the newly created World Athletics Continental Tour Gold series, above which only Wanda Diamond League stations are listed, unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has narrowed the range of possibilities. The organisers were forced to close the from the spectators, postponed the meeting from the original date July 7 to August 19 with a modified program. The great success is the hold of the meeting itself because other big competitions such as the Tokyo Olympics and European Championships in Paris were postponed or cancelled. A very few of sport events were able to create such a high-level sporting experience and managed it safely that no infections or spread of the virus has been made.
Due to the global pandemic fewer world class athletes had the opportunity to prepare properly or travel to the competitions, so several of our Meeting Holders could not compete in Székesfehérvár. Fortunately, the television viewers around the world could experience the performance of the several new athletes, who had never competed in Hungary before, accepted the invitation and made it to the history books. In addition to the 15 international, we also organised 4 national events and an unusual high jump “doubles”.
Undoubtedly, the appearance of the world champion sprinter Noah Lyles (USA) was most highly anticipated. The gold medallist from Doha had no rival and won the 100m, even though there were also two world champions, Adam Gemili (GBR) and Michael Rodgers (USA) on the field. The victory was brought by Lyles so confidently (with 10.05) that after a few minutes of thinking he told the organisers that he wanted to start at 200m, where he proved to be the fastest with 20.13! With his top-notch act, Lyles is only the third athlete in the history of the Grand Prix after Tianna Bartoletta (USA) and Akani Simbine (RSA) to have a double win!
Despite the virus, the male hammer throw brought an exciting event like it did in the previous years. Bence Halász really wanted to win Gyulai István Memorial for the first time in his career, and even planned to cross the 80m dream line, but Wojciech Nowicki (POL) had a different idea. Exactly 7 centimetres, in the end that was all left between the two of them in favour of the Polish. Nowicki threw the 7.26kg hammer to 78.07m, while Halász reached 78.00m mark.
Even closer results were brought in the women’s long jump. Nastasia Mironcsik-Ivanova (BLR) was 1 centimeter (6.77m) ahead of Marina Bek-Mironcsuk (6.76m) while Lesti Diana took 3rd place ahead of Nguyen Anastasia (6.51m) with a brilliant performance (6.65m). In the field featuring the most Hungarian competitors, Petra Farkas (6.44m) was 7th, Xénia Krizsán (6.13m) was 9th, Rita Nemes (5.95m) was 11th, and Klaudia Endrész (5.94m) was 12th!
In the high jump doubles, UTE athlete Barbara Szabó and MTK Budapest athlete Dániel Jankovics won the event, with their additional result of 3.87m.
The young titan, Femke Bol (NED) wasn’t scared of the Olympic bronze medallist Anna Rizsikova (UKR) or European champion Lea Sprunger (SUI) and won the the women’s 400m H confidently with a World Leading time. Still only 20-year-old super talent is surely one of the greatest youngsters of 2020!
The women’s 100m H brought the most pleasant Hungarian result of the competition. Although Luca Kozák finished only second with 12.71s behind Nadine Visser’s (NED) World Leading result, her performance caused a huge success as she passed the Hungarian National Record that Xénia Siska ran 36 (!) years ago.
The defending Hungarian Grand Prix champion and reigning world champion Grant Holloway (USA) was unable to keep his lead over Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega (ESP). After a slow start, the Spanish caught up his young rival with amazing speed and in fact, his time of 13.21s meant the Cuban-born hurdler, who is now competing as a European for the fifth year in a row the Dr. Spiriev Bojidar trophy.
In the women’s 400m race, Wadeline Jonathas (USA) proved to be the fastest, while in the men’s discus throw, world champion Daniel Ståhl (SWE) finished 1st, ahead of Andrius Gudžius (LTU). In the women’s hammer throw, a French victory came through by Alexandra Tavernier, and at 200 meters, to some surprise, Lyonna Irby (USA) won. In the field, we could see world stars such as two-time world champion Dafne Schippers (NED), Olympic and world championship medallist Marie-Josée Ta Lou (CIV) or world and European championship medallist Mujinga Kambundji (SUI).
By the end of the meeting, television viewers around the world could see two unusual events. First, the men’s triple jump won by the world championship bronze medallist Hugues Fabrice Zango (BUR) with the best jump in the world this year – 17.43m – which is not surprising at all. It was more so that Olympic and world champion Christian Taylor (USA) jumped 9 centimetres less and was forced to settle for 2nd place, while the Cuban-born Pedro Pablo Pichardo (POR) came in 3rd.
As the final event, we saw a completely unusual 600m race run till the and on measured track due to COVID-19. 800m world champion from Doha, Donovan Brazier (USA) won the event, Wesley Vázquez (PUR) finished 2nd due to the American athlete’s great final sprint.
The legend continues in 2021, hopefully alongside spectators again!