Despite chilly, wet and windy conditions that were reminiscent of last year’s World Championships in Helsinki, Swedish star Christian Olsson delivered one of the finest performances of the week to highlight day six of the 19th European Athletics Championships.
Olsson, the Olympic and defending Triple Jump champion, capped his comeback from injury with a commanding victory after a 17.67 metre second round effort that effectively put the competition well out of reach.
“After all my injuries it’s almost unbelievable to comeback and win here,” said Olsson, who was sidelined from competition for 21 months due to lingering foot problems. “But at the same time it’s perfect to win here in front of this amazing and wonderful home crowd.”
His was the first successful title defence since 1962, a feat that even escaped triple jump legend Jonathan Edwards, who set the World record of 18.29m 11 years ago this week in this same stadium.
After his second-round jump, the second farthest in the world this season, Olsson said he went hard for a better follow-up, but a tailwind pushed him to a substantial foul on a jump that approached 18 metres. His remaining three jumps were fouls as well, but he hardly needed them.
Briton Nathan Douglas came closest with his 17.21 leap in the fifth round to take the silver, while Romanian Marian Oprea reached 17.18 in the fifth to secure the bronze.
Another favourite who delivered despite in the uncooperative conditions was Yelena Isinbayeva who casually claimed the one missing title from her collection.
With the win assured after her second attempt clearance at 4.70, the 24-year-old needed a pair at 4.80 and closed out the competition with three jumps at a would-be World record of 5.02. One was reasonably close, but more important for the Russian star was that the technical difficulties she’s been having during this transition season are beginning to pass.
“I think in better weather I would have jumped the World record,” said Isinbayeva, who was second to compatriot Svetlana Feofanova four years ago in Munich. “I can feel the shape, and I still have enough competitions this year, so the record,” currently her 5.01 from last year’s World Championships, “can still be broken.”
Pole Monika Pyrek was second to the Russian yet again, topping out at 4.65. Russian Tatyana Polnova, reached a season’s best 4.65 to take the bronze, leaving Feofanova, who cleared 4.50, out of the medals.
Olijar begins post-Jackson era
Yet another favourite who didn’t bend under pressure was Latvian high hurdles ace Stanislav Olijar. With a well-established lead by the third hurdle, Olijar steadily added to his margin and was never challenged, eventually reaching the line in 13.24, his second fastest performance of the year.
“I was a little tired sine we had so little time between the semi-final and the final, but the race was ok,” said Olijars, who was second fours ago. “I didn’t make any mistakes and I didn’t hit any hurdles, which is really impressive for me.”
A testament to the Latvian’s continental dominance was that the battle for silver was clearly a separate race. German champion Thomas Blaschek took the silver in 13.46, ahead of Briton Andy Turner (13.52), who took home his second major competition bronze of the year after duplicating his Commonwealth Games finish.
Still dogged by a lingering calf injury, World Champion Ladji Doucoure of France failed to advance from the semi-finals.
Dominguez Defends as well
Propelled by a perfectly-time kick over the final 70 metres, Marta Dominguez took another win in the 5000, producing a 14:56.18 clocking to cap her solid week in Gothenburg.
“I wasn’t planning on running the 5000 today,” said Dominguez, who earlier in the week finished seventh in the 10,000 metres after running a national record 30:51.69. “But I was convinced by the president of our federation to run, and I’m glad I did.” Smiling and waving as she crossed the line, Dominguez set a new championships record, topping Sonia O'Sullivans's 15:06.50 set in Budapest in 1998.
Briton Jo Pavey, who dictated most of the pace, led the lead quartet of Liliya Shobukhova, Elvan Abeylegesse and Dominguez through the bell, but with the tempo picking up, Pavey was out of contention with about 230 metres to go. The remaining three were running virtually even as they approached the final straight. With Shobukhova taking the turn a little wide, Dominguez snuck by on the inside for the clear win, nearly 4/10s of a second in ahead of the Russian’s 14:56.57. Abeylegesse, who dropped out of the 10,000 on Monday, held on despite an Achilles injury to take the bronze in 14:59.29. Pavey wound up fourth in 15:01.41. Susanne Wigene, the surprise silver medallist in the 10,000, lost contact with the leaders with 1200 metres to go, and eventually finished seventh.
Maisch’s marathon surprise
Ulrike Maisch added her name to the growing list of surprise winners after a late-race rally to win the Marathon. The unheralded 29-year-old from Rostock, a strong second-half runner, took the lead in the 40th kilometer from Russian Irina Permitina en route to her personal best 2:30:01 clocking.
“I didn't expect it at all," Maisch said of her surprise victory. "I would be happy for the first eight. I didn't even think about a medal."
Permintina, who controlled the tempo for much of the race, paid for it in the latter stages when Serbia’s Olivera Jevtic moved by as well to take silver in 2:30:27 with 26 seconds to spare.
Maisch’s gold was the first for Germany in the event in these championships, while Luminita Zaituc, the top German, pulled out after 30 kilometres with stomach problems.
Alekna takes elusive title
After a bronze in 1998 and a silver in 2003, twice Olympic and twice World champion Virgilijus Alenka finally earned the top podium in the Discus Throw. And with a first round 68.67 throw, he wasted little time to secure the elusive title.
“You need to be careful in these conditions, but I managed to fulfill my goal,” said the 34-year-old, who extended his unbeaten streak to 12. His was also the first ever gold medal for Lithuania.
Estonia’s Gerd Kanter threatened in the third round with a 68.03 heave, but fouled his remaining three throws and wound up with silver, while teammate Aleksandr Tammert added another medal for Estonia with his third place showing (66.14).
Turava claims first European title in steeplechase
Pulling away from a three-woman lead pack as they approached the bell, Alesia Turava became the first woman to win a European 3000 metre Steeplechase title.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Turava, the pre-race favourite, after her convincing 9:26.05 win, exactly two seconds clear of the runner-up, Tatyana Petrova of Russia. “My coach had prepared some tactics, but I went on my own anyway.” Turava also completed a rare sibling double win, joining her sister who sped to victory in the 20 Km Race Walk.
Following a modest pace, the 12-woman field didn’t begin to thin until the final two laps, with Turava leading Pole Wioletta Janowska, Lubov Ivanova of Russia and Petrova. As Turava pulled away, Petrova briefly gave chase, but settled for silver after passing Janowska with 250 metres to go. The Pole hung on for third, reaching the finish in 9:31.62, nearly two seconds ahead of Ivanova.
Two more national records were set: Ida Nilsson improved her own Swedish standard (9:39.24), with Zulema Fuentes-Pila lowered the Spanish record to 9:40.36.
Tikhon comes through again
With eight of this season’s nine European 80 metre throwers in the final, the men’s Hammer Throw promised a top notch competition. With a rainy chill again descending on the stadium as the competition commenced, throwers required a few rounds to get warmed up, but when they did, they delivered. With the afternoon’s first throw beyond the 80-metre line, two-time World champion Ivan Tikhon of Belarus sealed the win with a third round 81.11, a season’s best for the 30-year-old to secure his first medal at the European championship.
“This is a transition year for me in terms of training,” said Tikhon, who also produced a second 80+ metre throw in the fourth round. “So I did not expect to be in top shape. An to win after this experimentation is really great.”
Finn Olli-Pekka Karjalainen rose to the occasion as well with an 80.84 throw in the fourth round, also a season’s best, to take the silver, and produced a massive 81m+ foul in the final round but foot fouled at the end of this throw.
The Finn was a mere eight centimetres ahead of the Belarus No. 2, Vadim Devyatovski, who had to settle for bronze.
Khoroneko over Ostapchuk in the Shot Put
World Indoor Champion Natallia Khoroneko won the closest Shot Put competition ever at these championships, with her 19.43 effort in the fourth round just edging the 19.42 throw by her compatriot Nadzeya Ostapchuk in the fifth to take a 1-2 finish back to Belarus.
“If you are well prepared, even the rain can’t bother you,” said the 24-year-old, seemingly unbothered by the afternoon’s wet chill.
Ostapchuk, this year’s world leader at 20.56 and the event’s dominant force in recent years, however, apparently was. “I was ready for 20 metres but the rain was my main problem.”
Germany’s Petra Lammert was the only competitor to produce two 19 metre efforts with both – 19.06 and her final round 19.17 – enough for the bronze.
66.12 in Javelin qualifying for Spotakova
Czech Barbora Spotakova’s 66.12 national record, the second farthest throw in the world this year, highlighted the qualifying round in the Javelin Throw. Four others threw beyond 60 metres, with 58.65 the cut-off to reach Sunday’s final.
The qualify rounds in both the men’s and women’s 4x100 and 4x400 relays produced no surprises, with all the favourites advancing.
The final day of competition begins with the men’s Marathon and concludes with the men’s 4x400 relay.
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Bob Ramsak for the IAAF