Ukraine's Yuliya Krevsun on the way to her world-leading 1:58.62 in Leiria (Marcelino Almeida) © Copyright
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Narrow one point lead for Great Britain in Leiria – European Team Championships, day 1

Leiria, PortugalWith 165 points Great Britain holds a narrow one point lead over Russia after the first day at the inaugural Spar European Team Championships.

The lead came in dramatic fashion in the men’s 4x100m Relay when third man Rikki Fifton suffered a hamstring injury but still forged on to make the handoff to ensure the Britons would finish the race.

France is currently in third with 159.5 points, followed by Germany (158.5), Ukraine (155) and Poland (153). Well back but also far from relegation is Italy, seventh with 140.

After them, Czech Republic (123) apparently may stay in the European best 12 nations, as four other nations are struggling for ninth place: Spain (117), Greece (112), Portugal (111) and Sweden (almost “pre” relegated with only 72 points).

The host team, Portugal, could have made a better classification if 400m Hurdler Patricia Lopes wasn’t disqualified because she finished seventh and with those six points Portugal could have 117 points, one point ahead of Spain.

But the Spaniards also had reasons to complain about the new rules, because they saw the disqualification of their 3000m runner, Natalia Rodriguez, after she won the race.

World season leads for Krevsun and Obergfoll

Individually, in the women’s 800m Ukrainian Yulia Krevsun, seventh in Beijing, clocked a world-leading 1:58.62 in a fast race where three other runners dipped under two minutes: Russian Yekaterina Kostetskaya (1:59.43, season best), Élodie Guégan (1:59.79, SB) of France, and Briton Hannah England (1:59,94, pb). Another four athletes ran to personal or season’s best times.

The other world lead came in the Women’s javelin, with a fantastic throw by Olympic bronze medallist Christina Obergfoll who extended her 2009 world lead to 68.59m. In so doing she relegated World record holder and Olympic and World champion Barbora Spotakova (CZE) to second (65.89). Russian Mariya Abakumova, who beat Obergfoll and Spotakova in Ostravaon Wednesday, was third here with 62.01m.

In the women events, Italy’s Cuban-born Libania Grenot won the run the 400m in 51.16, ahead of Russian Lyudmila Litvinova, an Olympic relay silver medallist (51.23).

In the women’s 3000m, Russian steeplechase star Gulnara Galkina-Samitova (8:46,88) was declared the winner after the disqualification of Spaniard Natalia Rodriguez. After her race she was clearly happy. “This (3000m) is my race, I really like it, not just the Steeplechase. I hope to be in good form and win in Berlin.” Speaking about the new rule where the trailing runners are eliminated after a certain number of laps, Galkina-Samitova said, “This new elimination rule shouldn't exist. Everyone should race till the end because everyone runs fast.”

In the 3000m Steeplechase, German record holder Antje Moldner (9:32,65) made a strong sprint and beat French record holder Sophie Duarte (9:33,63), and in the Pole vault, one of three Polish wins, Monica Pyrek took the title with a 4,70m leap, relegating 2009 indoor champion Yuliya Golubchikova to second place. German Silke Spiegelburg was third (4.60), ahead of Kate Dennison (4.55), the British record holder.

In the Triple Jump, Frenchwoman Teresa Nzola Meso Ba achieved her season best with a 14.40m leap with her first attempt and only in the last attempt she saw some reaction from Russian Anna Pyatykh (14.10). In the discus, Ukrainian Natalyia Semenova, the 2003 World Students Games champion, took the win with a 61.58m throw.

In the 4x100m Relay, Russia, running in the second heat, clocked 43.35 to win the event where the Portuguese team (with long jumper Naide Gomes running the third leg) clocked a 44.70 national record.

In crowd pleaser, Silva prevails in 1500m

The Portuguese crowed really enjoyed the men’s 1500m, where 2009 European indoor champion Rui Silva won a tactical battle in 3:42.07 over Spaniard Diego Ruiz, the European indoor silver medallist.

“My objective for this championship was accomplished: winning for Portugal. For me, for my team, and especially for this wonderful crowd, whom I would like to thank.”

Later in the 4x100, the another national record fell for the home team where Portugal clocked 39.02, finishing third behind Italy (38.77) and Germany (38.78).

In the sprint events, Dwain Chambers (10.07) and Francis Obikwelu (10.20) dominated the event. In the 400m, Tim Benjamin won in 45.57, where the next four runners made season bests and in the 400m Hurdles came another British victory, this time by David Greene, the 2007 European under 23 champion, with 49.26.

In the 5000m, Mo Farah produced a spectacular win in 13:43,01, ahead of Spain’s Carles Castillejo (13:49.54) and Sergey Lebid (13:59.85), who was almost eliminated!

In the Long Jump, Nelson Evora, the Olympic Triple Jump champion, jumped 7.94m in last of four attempts to equal his season’s best, but Spaniard Eusebio Caceres was the winner with an 8.00m leap. In the Shot Put, 2008 Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski (20.81m) of Poland defeated Spaniard Manuel Martinez (20.39m), and in the Hammer throw Nicola Vizzoni, the 2000 Olympic silver medallist, won with 78.15m.

Finally, the men’s High Jump produced a good event, but the new rules claimed some victims. After jumps at 2.31m, all the athletes finish their event with that jump, because at 2.33m, the winner Yuriy Krimarenko failed three attempts, Jaroslav Baba could only use two attempts, and Aleksandr Shustov only had one!

New rules, mixed feelings

Emotional moments lived in Leiria by all teams! The new rules made some unexpected victims as such as the Spaniard Rodriguez, who was eliminated initially but continued and went on to win the race. After she crossed the line she saw the red card from the judges and was disqualified.

Other athletes suffered similarly, such as Russian hammer thrower Aleksey Zagornyi (personal best of 83.43m and a 80.10m season’s best), who couldn’t throw better than 70.99m, after he produced a 69.91m throw. He was one of the six who only made two events.

Emphasizing the Championships' new rules, which are aimed at heightening the excitement and unpredictability of competitions, Russia's Olesya Korotkova fouled her first throw and then could only manage a modest 46.25m to finish 12th and last, a surprisingly poor performance for a woman who has thrown 61.12m this year.

António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF


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