Leiria, PortugalBritain and Northern Ireland's women and The Netherlands’ men are in control of the 1st League Group B of the European Cup, at the end of the first day of competition. The fixture is being held this weekend at the renewed Magalhães Pessoa Stadium, in Leiria.
The British team have a total of 69 points overnight, and are being closely followed by the Belarus. Quite a bit further behind is the Bulgarian team with a total of 47 points. British athletes accounted for five of the victories achieved in the ten events which took place this afternoon in the women’s division of the programme.
Paula Radcliffe, with her own destinctive, go-it-alone drive, gave no chance at all to her opponents in the 3000 metres. The British World marathon record holder won with ease in 8:50.18, with the Belarussian Alesya Turava in second position in 8:55.13.
In the women’s 400 metres, Donna Fraser took the victory right on the finish line in close sprint with Belarus' Ilona Usovich. The Sydney Olympic 4th placer who has been so troubled by injuries since, registered 52.34 against the 52.45 of Usovich.
Liz Fairs, on the other hand, took the 400m Hurdles title almost two seconds in front of the next best runner. Fairs crossed the finish line in 56.65 against the 58.22 of the Ireland’s Michelle Carey.
In the field events, Janine Whitlock, who is back in competition after a doping suspension, won the Pole Vault with 4.40m, beating the Portuguese Elisabete Tavares who launched herself over 4.25m, while Goldie Sayers took the Javelin with a throw of 61.37m, leaving behind the Bulgarian Rumyana Karapetrova with 56.71.
Obikwelu helps to puts Portugal into top-3
In the men’s competition, the public had the opportunity to see their team fighting for a sport on the overall team podium. Portugal is in third position overnight with a total of 54 points, just behind Greece with 58 and the Netherlands with 61.
Three Portuguese victories kept the home crowd in a good mood. The most expected was the one of Francis Obikwelu, silver medallist at the Athens Olympic Games, who won the 100 metres in 10.14 (+1,1), which left behind the Dutch Guus Hoogmoed (10.25) and the Ukranian Kostyantyn Vasyukov (10.39).
After his run, the former Nigerian said he had run “even though he was carrying an inury... a small lesion on the right knee”, and intends to have an operation at the end of the season. In any case this problem “still shouldn’t be an impediment to me taking another victory (this time in) the 200 metres on the second day of the European Cup”.
The long distances provided the two other Portuguese victories. Manuel Damião took the 1500m (3:45.06) and Ricardo Ribas the 5000m (14:24.47).
Dutch bet on consistency
In the men’s competition, The Netherlands is leading despite only one victory because its team showed the greatest consisitency, with four second places and two third places. Their one victory was the responsibility of Wilbert Pennings in the High Jump with the mark of 2.21m. The Belgian Stijn Stroobants and the Portuguese Rafael Gonçalves were joint second with 2.18.
Paulo Costa for the IAAF