Mo Farah added yet another 5000m/10,000m double to his world and Olympic doubles on Sunday (17) to highlight the final day of the European Championships in Zurich.
Farah’s triumph was one of five on the day for Great Britain to up their gold medal haul to 12 with 23 medals in all.
Farah added several more superlatives to an already stellar career with his convincing gold medal run in the men’s 5000m. With the victory, the reigning Olympic champion became the first man to win the title three times at these championships, and the first to win a second 5000m/10,000m double as he duplicated the 2010 feat that elevated him to international stardom.
Biding his time patiently in one of the slowest races in championship history, Farah switched gears at the bell when he passed Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan to take over the lead. Ibrahimov gave chase for 300 metres before Farah pulled away for good to win in 14:05.82. It may have been the slowest winning time since 1946, but that will matter little to Farah.
“History's very important to me and I always hope to make my country proud,” said Farah, who has lost just two 5000m races since winning his first European title over the distance in 2010. “What I've achieved over the years means that the rest of the field let me do my thing.”
Ibrahimov hung on for second in 14:08.32, with Briton Andy Vernon crossing the line 14:09.48 to take bronze.
Another British Olympic champion to shine was Greg Rutherford, who just 18 days after taking Commonwealth gold added the European title to his collection as well.
Rutherford took the lead for good with an 8.27m leap in the second round, and padded his lead with an 8.29m in the fourth. Louis Tsatoumas was a distant second at 8.15m, a lone centimetre ahead of Frenchman Kafetien Gomis.
Three relay titles for Great Britain
Ensuring heavy rotation for God Save the Queen, Great Britain also won three of the four relay titles. The most impressive came in the day’s final event on the track, when Asha Philip, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry combined for a 42.24 performance that smashed the 42.43 national record set at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
France was second in 42.45 with Russia third (43.22), while disaster struck Switzerland and the Netherlands. For the hosts, the baton simply slipped out of Mujinga Kambundji’s hand as she left the blocks. For the Dutch, Madiea Ghafoor and sprint double winner Dafne Schippers missed their exchange.
In the men’s contest, Britain and Germany were virtually even at the last exchange before Adam Gemili put his superior acceleration on display. He pieced together a gap significant enough to bring his quartet home in a swift 37.93. Germany was second with 38.09 with France a distant third, clocking 38.47.
In the 4x400m, it was thanks largely to Martyn Rooney’s sub-44-second final lap that give Great Britain the gold in 2:58:79. Rooney, the 400m champion, waited until he entered the final stretch to make his decisive move to finish 0.69 seconds clear of Russian anchor Vladimir Krasnov. Jakub Krzewina moved past French anchor Thomas Jordier over the last few metres to secure the bronze for Poland in 2:59.85.
The most thrilling finish of the championships?
Quite likely the anchor leg produced by Floria Guei to secure victory for France in the women’s 4x400m. A distant fourth as she approached the final turn, Guei ate up a deficit of more than 15 metres through the final straight to take the 3:24.27 win after a perfectly-time lean. Her split of 49.71 doesn’t quite illustrate just how impressive her run was.
Olha Zemlyak, the 400m silver medallist for Ukraine, held on for second (3:24.32). Margaret Adeoye also passed fading Russian Yekaterina Renzhina to nab the bronze for Great Britain in 3:24.34.
Mekhissi-Benabbad makes amends with 1500m triumph
France’s first victory of the day came in the men’s 1500m where Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad made up for the disappointment of disqualification in the steeplechase with a dominant victory that hardly lacked drama.
Literally leaving a small pile of bodies in his wake, the 29-year-old Frenchman closed with a 52-second last lap to cruise to a 3:45.60 victory, well clear of Norway’s Henrik Ingebrigsten who finished half a second back.
Running mid-pack for the opening pair of dawdling laps, Mekhissi-Benabbad made his break for the lead as the field approached the bell. As he cut back in from the outside, German Florian Orth clipped his heel and tumbled, setting off a chain reaction that sent two others – Briton Charlie Grice and Ukraine’s Stanislav Maslov – to the track as well. After several others recovered from hurdling over or running around the fallen, Mekhissi-Benabbad was well clear and on his way to a convincing win.
“Today I was not done; it was my only possible reaction after the disqualification. I had a lot of motivation,” said Mekhissi-Benabbad.
In the blanket finish, Briton Chris O’Hare took third in 3:46.18, 0.08 behind the Norwegian.
Ruuskanen restores Finnish javelin pride
In the men’s javelin, Antti Ruuskanen won the first continental title for Finland in 40 years, courtesy of his third-round 88.01m career best heave. The 30-year-old Olympic bronze medallist was clearly the class of the field, where even his 86.85m effort from the second round would have sufficed for the win.
Czech Vitezslav Vesely, the defending champion, was second with 84.79m, ahead of Finns Tero Pitkamaki and Lassi Etelatalo, who reached 84.40m and 83.16m respectively to finish off Finland’s best showing since 1938.
Defeating a slew of younger challengers, Ruth Beitia let her experience shine as she successfully defended her title in the high jump.
The 35-year-old Spaniard took the title with a first-round clearance at 2.01m, a season’s best and just one centimetre shy of the career best she set in 2007.
Mariya Kuchina of Russia, who produced a clean card through 1.99m, took silver with Croatia’s Ana Simic claiming the bronze at the same height, a one-centimetre improvement on her personal best.
Justyna Kasprzycka of Poland also topped 1.99m to equal her best but finished fourth on count-back.
German gold for Schwanitz and Moldner-Schmidt
As expected, Christina Schwanitz followed David Storl’s lead to give Germany a second shot put gold. The 28-year-old led throughout the competition, securing the victory with a second-round effort of 19.90m. Such was her dominance that three of her other four throws would have sufficed for the win.
Yevgeniya Kolodko of Russia reached 19.39m in the final round and finished second, with Anita Marton taking the bronze, her 19.04m best a Hungarian record.
Antje Moldner-Schmidt collected Germany’s second gold of the afternoon after a well-executed final lap in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. Running fourth at the bell, the 30-year-old world and Olympic finalist moved up to places midway through the final turn before running away from Swede Charlotta Fougberg off the final hurdle to take the victory in 9:29.43. It was also a season’s best for Moldner-Schmidt who took bronze two years ago.
In the battle for the minor medals, Fougberg held off Spaniard Diana Martin, 9:30.16 to 9:30.70.
Meucci prevails in marathon
The day began with Daniele Meucci’s convincing victory in the men’s marathon. Running under clear skies, the 28-year-old broke from the field some seven kilometres from the finish to take the win with a personal best of 2:11:08, 52 seconds clear of Poland’s Yared Shegumo.
It was the first victory over the distance in three tries for Meucci, who raced to bronze and silver over 10,000m at these championships in 2010 and 2012. He competed in 10,000m in Zurich as well, finishing sixth, but that was just an effort to loosen up for his run today.
“I ran the 10km here to unblock myself, never thinking about a medal,” said Meucci, who knocked nearly a minute from his previous personal best of 2:12:03. “It was a difficult course (today) and I was very tired on the last lap. But I always believed in myself.”
Russian Aleksey Reunkov clocked 2:12:15 to take the bronze.
Defending champion Victor Rothlin, one of Switzerland’s most popular athletes, remained in contention for the first half, but faded in the waning stages and finished fifth. Pole Marcin Chabowski, who led the race for nearly 35 kilometres, paid dearly for his pacing efforts and dropped out before the 40th kilometre.
Great Britain topped the medals table with 23 medals, 12 of them gold. France equalled Britain’s overall tally with 23 medals, nine of those gold. Russia took home 22 including three gold.
The next edition of the European Championships will take place in Amsterdam from 6-10 July 2016.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF