In Finland it was only fitting the host nation made history by completing the first clean sweep of any event at the 33-year-old European Junior Championships in the men’s javelin.
Organisers granted the right for each nation to enter three athletes per event for the first time before these championships - having previously restricted the quota to two - and the hosts who took full advantage of the new ruling to greedily fill the first three places of the podium in the men’s javelin.
The prodigiously talented Teemu Wirkkala led home the one-two-three with a magnificent 79.90m to earn Finland their first victory in this event since Aimo Puska struck gold in 1970.
Tero Jarvenpaa claimed silver for the hosts with 73.66m and Antti Ruuskanen completed the all Finnish podium with a best of 72.87m.
Wirkkala, who threw a personal best of 80.07m in the week leading up to the competition and started the championship an overwhelming favourite, held his nerve to produce the three longest throws in the competition.
From Kokkola on the west coast, the shaven-headed Wirkkala is known as the ‘Wild Child’ of Finnish javelin and cites former world champion Seppo Raty as his hero.
An elated champion said: “Normally I take the first round easy but today I loaded everything onto it. I produced a long one but my run up was bad until the last round and then there was no pressure anymore. After the fifth round I was very nervous if someone could have passed me, the competition had been totally new. It feels great to win.”
The men’s high jump promised to be one of the top quality events of the championships and so it proved, as Jaroslav Baba of the Czech Republic won gold with a world class clearance of 2.28m.
Baba, 18, who placed ninth in March’s World Indoor Championships, secured victory with a first time clearance of 2.28m but was unsuccessful in his three attempts at a new championship record of 2.31m.
Russia’s Alexsey Dmitrik won silver with 2.26m and Sweden added a bronze to the two gold medals they won yesterday, courtesy of Linus Thornblad (2.23m).
In the women’s track finals, Eastern Europe won all four gold medals available on day three.
The best race came in the women’s 800m as Britain’s 18-year-old Charlotte Moore, a Commonwealth Games finalist last year, went through the bell in a scintillating 57.94. Victory seemed certain as the Briton entered the final straight ten metres clear but Romania’s Simona Barcau came with a devastating late burst to surge past Moore to win in a personal best of 2:02.76.
Moore held off her compatriot Jemma Simpson by two hundredths of a second to take bronze in 2:03.40.
Latvian Irina Poluskina made up for the disappointment of missing out on gold in yesterday’s 5000m to Italian Silvia La Barbera by gaining revenge today in the 3000m.
Yesterday, Poluskina paid the price for setting too quick a pace in the early stages but this time was more cautious leaving her attack until later in the race to win comfortably in 9:07.85. La Barbera could only place fifth in 9:34.66.
Russia took the other two women’s track gold medals available and accumulated five golds in total during a successful day for the ‘Mother Country.’ The fast-finishing Yekaterina Kostetskaya caught compatriot Irina Obedina to win the 400m hurdles title by five-hundredths of a second in 57.52.
And Russia’s stranglehold on the women’s 400m was maintained as they claimed a third straight European Junior title through Mariya Dryakhlova, who won in a personal best of 52.65 from Ireland’s Joanne Cuddihy (53.62)
In the first men’s track final of the day Britain’s Rhys Williams timed his winning run to perfection as he sprinted clear of Frenchman Mohamed Atig after trailing at the last hurdle to win the 400m hurdles title in a personal best of 51.15.
Williams comes from a strong sporting pedigree as his father John, was a former rugby international winger with Wales and the British Lions during the 1970s.
France may have just missed out on gold in the one-lap hurdles but in the sprint hurdles Paris-based Bano Traore raced to victory in 13.95 from Switzerland’s Andreas Kundert (14.18) in the last track final of the day.
Earlier, Greece added to their growing sprint tradition by providing the winner in the men’s 400m as Dimitrios Gravalos won a tight race in a personal best of 46.54 from Germany’s Kamghe Gaba 46.63.
Gravalos from Salonika placed sixth in the World Youth Championships and looks a future threat in the senior ranks.
Germany won a third men’s 800m gold medal in the past four editions of the European Junior Championships as Bavarian Rene Bauschinger out-kicked his rivals to defeat pre-race favourite David Fiegen of Luxembourg in 1:49.31.
The confident Bavarian now hopes he can use this gold medal to help him gain the Olympic qualification mark for next season. For Fiegen, a world junior bronze medallist in Jamaica last year, silver was a success as he suffered illness and missed a large chunk of training during the winter.
Germany’s Silke Speigelburg, the younger sister of German international Richard, produced a major surprise to defeat world junior champion and countrywoman Floe Kuhnert on countback in the women’s pole vault with 4.15m.
Kuhnert was one of the most strongly fancied favourites in the championships but Speigelburg claimed victory with a first time clearance at 4.15m.
It was a minor miracle the gold medallist made the championships after missing three months training after contracting Dengue fever while competing at last summer’s World Junior Championships in Jamaica and lost six kilogrammes in weight.
Further complication led her to lose one and a half litres of blood in May and she has only been back fully training in the past few weeks.
The men’s 10,000m walk was the scene of high drama as the leader Vladimir Kanaykin of Russia was disqualified 50m from the finish with the gold medal beckoning.
The unfortunate disqualification handed victory to fellow Russian Vladimir Parvatkin in 41:33.55.
Others gold medallists on the penultimate day of competition were: Katarzyna Kita of Poland in the women’s hammer (66.08); Russia’s Anastasiya Taranova in the triple jump (13.61); Holland’s Erik Cadee in the men’s discus (60.42) and Russia’s Anna Avdeyeva (16.71) in the shot.
Steve Landells for the IAAF