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Much of the attention on this weekend's European Indoor Championships in Paris was focused on the host men's squad, but it was a woman who was the first to strike gold for France, and Antoinette Nana Djimou Ida did with it with panache and style to highlight the opening day of the competition’s 31st edition at the Palais Omnisport Paris-Bercy.
“I don't know what to say, but it's fantastic,” said Djimou Ida, who tallied a world-leading 4723 points to capture a dramatic victory in the Pentathlon. “I dreamt about this national anthem.”
The 25-year-old, who took bronze two years ago in Turin, was off to a quick start, equalling her PB in the opening event with an 8.11 run in the 60m Hurdles to take the early lead. She cleared a season's best 1.80m in the High Jump, the third best clearance of the morning, to rest in second place after the second event, 37 points behind Dutchwoman Remona Fransen.
The Shot Put was dominated by Lithuania’s pre-meet favourite Austra Skujyte, who took command thanks to a season’s best 17.53m heave. But Djimou Ida reached 14.81m, another personal best which kept her in second place, but now trailing Skujyte by 112 points. In the Long Jump, the Frenchwoman again produced the finest performance of the competition, reaching 6.34m, another season's best. Skujyte managed 6.25m to maintain her lead, but now reduced to 83 points before the final event. There Djimou Ida clocked 2:18.99, more than seven-and-a-half seconds ahead of the Lithuanian to end the day with the best tally in the world of the 2010 season, 17 ahead of her rival.
Fransen took the bronze with a 4665 tally, ahead of Poland’s Karolina Tyminska (4612).
Nytra outleans Ofili
If that drama wasn’t enough, it was outdone in the evening’s very next final where Carolin Nytra and Tiffany Ofili produced the closest 60m Hurdles contest in 37 years.
Nytra, the continent’s 100m Hurdles bronze medallist, was out fast, holding a narrow lead through the midway point. But Ofili, who clocked a 7.89 British record in the early afternoon semis, drew even with the German over the fourth hurdle, and appeared to have a slight lead after the fifth. It was a margin she carried until the final step with Nytra barely slipping by to win on the lean. When the photo was finally read, the pair were virtually inseparable, both credited with 7.80 clockings. It was a career best for the 26-year-old Nytra and the second national record on the afternoon for the 23-year-old Ofili.
Christina Vukicevic, among the pre-meet favorites, wasn't too far behind to take the bronze in 7.83 to crush her own Norwegian national record.
Svoboda fulfills favourite’s role
The men’s title went Czech Petr Svoboda, who moved up two spots from his third place finish two years ago. It wasn’t the prettiest of performances, but it was a gritty one by the 26-year-old Czech who arrived in Paris as the season’s fastest European.
Knocking over the first hurdle, he grazed the second before finding his rhythm by the third. He carried a narrow lead over the fourth barrier and hung on after the fifth – but not before stepping into his adjacent lane – en route to a 7.49 run.
Frenchman Garfield Darien equalled his 7.56 PB to finish second, just ahead of Belgian Adrien Deghelt, who stopped the clock in 7.59.
Bartels finally strikes gold
The first title of the championships went to German journeyman Ralf Bartels, who took solid command of the Shot Put competition with his 21.16m heave in the fourth round, fittingly, the farthest toss by a European this season.
Bartels, who finished third at these championships two years ago, opened with a modest 19.74m, but the 33-year-old twice World bronze medallist took the lead in the second round thanks to a 20.80m effort, one he nearly matched with his third round 20.79 toss. Either of those would have sufficed for the victory as well.
The runner-up was his compatriot and World junior record holder, 20-year-old David Storl, who reached a 20.75m season’s best in just his second competition of the year.
Maksim Sidorov of Russia reached 20.55m in the second round to secure bronze. Medzad Mulabegovic added 39 centimetres to his career best, reaching 20.43m for a Croatian national record and a fourth place finish.
Tamgho's double ambitions live on – qualifying rounds
Teddy Tamgho made his first two appearances of the championships but it wasn’t in his specialty that the World indoor record holder in the Triple Jump commanded the most attention. The drama he created came in the Long Jump where what may have seemed a fantasy just a few weeks ago took a big step closer to reality. Behind and out with just one jump remaining, the 21-year-old reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a 7.97m effort to lead all qualifiers and move into realistic medal contention in tomorrow’s final.
Later in the Triple Jump, his only leap, a 17.06m effort, also led all qualifiers with the chief surprise coming from his compatriot Yoann Rapinier who reached 17.04m, the second best leap of the day. Romanian Marian Oprea also hit the 17-metre barrier with a leap of exactly 17.00m.
On the women’s side, seven women met the 14.10m standard to move onto to Saturday’s final, led by Russian Natalya Kutyakova who reached a PB 14.44m. Italy’s Simona La Mantia (14.38m) and Slovak Dana Veldakova (14.27m) jumped season’s bests, and Snezana Rodic (14.25m) of Slovenia a career best to round out the top four.
Seven of the eight men who advanced to Saturday's Pole Vault final cleared 5.65m, home star and favorite Renaud Lavillenie among them. The Frenchman took just a pair jumps before calling it a day, while German Tim Lobinger, the winner in 1998 and 2002, and newcomer Pawel Wojciechowski of Poland, took just three leaps apiece before packing up for the night.
A modest 2.22m was enough to gain entry to Saturday’s men’s High Jump final. Six men, including medal favourites Ivan Ukhov and Aleksandr Shustov of Russia, were perfect through 2.27m, with two others clearing the decisive height with their second tries.
And in the women’s Shot Put, three women beat the 18-metre barrier. Germany’s Christina Schwanitz took care of matters quickly with her first put of 18.39m. Hungary’s Anita Marton reached 18.11m and Germany’s Josephine Terlecki 18.01m, personal bests for both. The final is also Saturday afternoon.
Opening rounds on the track, no surprises
There were no surprises in the opening round of the men’s 3000m, with favourite Mo Farah (8:02.36), Hayle Ibrahimov (8:00.36) of Azerbaijan, and Frenchman Yohan Durand (8:01.24) taking their respective heats.
“I did what I had to do,” said the defending champion Farah, who easily ran by Portugal’s Rui Silva with about 100 metres remaining to move on to tomorrow afternoon’s final. Silva, a three-time European indoor 1500m champion, advanced easily as well.
In the women’s 400m, Russia’s Olesya Krasnomovets (52.53) and Kseniya Zadorina (52.88) were the semi-final winners setting up a prospective 1-2 finish in the event. Medal contenders Denisa Rosolova (52.81) of the Czech Republic and Bulgarian Vania Stambolova (52.89) also moved on comfortably.
The quickest in the men’s semis was French record holder Leslie Djhone who cruised to a 46.26 run, nearly half a second quicker than Germany’s Thomas Schneider (46.72).
As expected, a prospective Russian sweep in the women’s 800m began without a hitch in the afternoon’s first round. Tatyana Paliyenko began with a comfortable 2:03.24 win in the first heat ahead of Lithuanian Egle Balciunaite; world leader Yuliya Rusanova was victorious in a sluggish heat three, clocking 2:05.17. In between Yevgeniya Zinurova, the Russian indoor championships runner-up, looked the smoothest of the trio, winning decisively in 2:01.07. The fourth and final heat went according to plan as well, with Briton Jenny Meadows, the World indoor silver medallist, taking the race in 2:02.96.
There were no major casualties on the men’s side, with Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski, the surprise European champion last summer, leading all qualifiers with his 1:48.81 in the first of five heats.
Russia was strong too in the opening round of the 1500m, with Yekaterina Martynova (4:09:93) and Yelena Arzhakova (4:10.29) taking victories in their respective heats. Poland's Renata Plis (4:10.15) was also a heat winner.
Day two action begins with the heptathlon on Saturday morning and concludes with the finals of the men's and women's 400m. Bob Ramsak for the IAAF