An incredulous Fani Halkia of Greece after winning the 400m Hurdles (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Thessaloniki, Greece

Greek men, women lead European Cup First League Group B match after Day One

While both the men’s and women’s Greek squads lead the First League Group B match, the battle for promotion to the SPAR European Cup will be particularly fierce when competition resumes on Sunday. In the men’s race, three other teams - Netherlands, Portugal, and Romania – are still in contention while Bulgaria remains in striking distance on the women’s side of the programme.

Halkia’s double win paces the Greek women

Olympic 400 metre Hurdles champion Fani Halkia has gradually overcome the injury she sustained in the national championships last week, achieving a double win today. Halkia easily won both the 400 and 400 metre Hurdles races in 52.14 and 55.31 respectively, while the country’s other Olympic medallist, Chrisopigi Devetzi, was the winner of the Triple Jump with a 14.44 leap, ahead of Sydney Olympic Champion Tereza Marinova, who was second with a 14.21 effort. Devetzi also doubles back tomorrow in the Long Jump, on the heels of her 6.83 personal best at the national championships last weekend.

In all, the Greek women achieved seven wins on the first day, collecting 79 points to lead Bulgaria's 66. Savva Lika won the Javelin Throw with a 60.58 effort, Areti Abatzi the discus with 55.86, and Antigoni Asteriou the Pole Vault with a 4.20 leap before the 4 x 100 metre relay team capped the day with a win.

Daniela Yordanova had the only Bulgarian win, taking the 3000 in 9:06.22, but her teammates also secured the second position in five other events, keeping Bulgaria’s hopes for promotion alive.

Ines Monteiro won the 3000m Steeplechase in 9.53.99 for Portugal’s only win, but they still sit in third with 58 points, ahead of Slovenia who has 47. Brigita Langerholc claimed the only win for Slovenia with her 2:02.23 in the 800m, stealing the victory from Portugal’s Sandra Texeira just on the finishing line, after a strong attack during the final 20 metres of the race. Texeira was credited with the same time.

Slovenian throwers, Obikwelu impress in close men’s competition

While day one ended with a closely-knit men's battle between Greece (57 points) and The Netherlands (55), it began with the day’s best result, an 80.38 heave in the Hammer Throw by Slovenia’s Primoz Kozmus, the year’s third farthest. The 27-year-old Kozmus, who underwent back surgery a year ago to repair a herniated disc, only resumed competition last month after a 22-month break. His effort – the second in his career beyond 80 meters – upset favourite Krisztián Pars of Hungary, who reached 78.16.

Kozmus was followed by teammate Miran Vodovnik, a 2004 Olympian, who upset Helsinki silver medallist Rutger Smith in the Shot Put. Vodovnik reached 20.76 to break his own two-year-old national record, enough to better Smith’s 20.60 best effort. Rozle Prezelj added a 2.25 win in the High Jump to continue Slovenia’s strong early run, but the country’s momentum hit a wall with the disqualification of the 4 x 100 metre relay team and ended the day in fifth place with 45 points.

Although Greece had only one win - Periklis Iakovakis’s 49.49 in the 400 metre Hurdles – its narrow lead is largely due to some very good performances mainly by younger athletes. Dimitrios Regas was second in the 400 metres with a personal best of 46.22; Alexandros Papadimitriou and Anastasios Gousis, third in the Hammer Throw and 100 metres respectively; and Panayotis Economou who was fourth in the 1500m.

The Dutch notched just one win – Gert-Jan Liefers' 15:32.71 in a tactical 5000m - but good placings in the High Jump and Shot Put have kept them within striking distance.

Portugal was the only men’s team with four wins on the opening day. Olympic 100 meter silver medallist Francis Obikwelu not only won the 100m with 10.20, but also led the winning 4x100 relay quartet. Two others contributed wins as well: Nelson Evora in the Long Jump was better than the Greek champion Luis Tsatoumas, exceeding eight metres twice with 8.01 and 8.05 leaps, and leaving the Greek second with 7.91m. Finally, Manuel Damiao was the expected winner of the 1500m in 3.42.58, leaving Portugal with 52 points after the first day, just five behind the leading Greeks.

Romania is in fourth with 48 points, assisted by Ioan Vieru’s 46.13 win in the 400 and Cristian Vorovenci’s runner-up finish in the 1500.

Click here for complete results.

Michalis Nikitaridis with Bob Ramsak for the IAAF