A stunning display of one-lap hurdling by Norway’s Karsten Warholm proved the highlight of what was a wonderful evening of action at the European Championships in Berlin on Thursday night (9).
The 22-year-old needed to be at his very best to repel the challenge of Turkey’s Yasmani Copello, and in fact the Norwegian surpassed even his own former greatness, blitzing a national record of 47.64 to take gold.
That was also a European U23 record, and it brought Warholm home a couple of metres clear of Copello, who set a Turkish record of 47.81 in second. Back in third, Thomas Barr claimed the first sprint medal by an Irishman in the 84-year history of the championships, the 26-year-old clocking 48.31 to edge France’s Ludvy Vaillant (48.42).
“After my world title I am European champion, and it sounds like where I should be,” said Warholm. “This was a fantastic race, a tough race but it feels so good.”
Celebrations will have to be put on ice, however, as Warholm will be back on track on Saturday for the men’s 400m final, where after winning his semi-final on Wednesday he should have another big medal chance.
On a night when a thunderstorm came looming over the Olympic Stadium shortly after action finished, there was another form of lightning hitting the track moments earlier, Turkey’s world champion Ramil Guliyev exploding down the track in 19.76 seconds to win the men’s 200m in a championship record.
That brought him home well clear of Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, who edged Switzerland’s Alex Wilson to silver, both clocking 20.04.
“This is a fast track, a great audience and we had great conditions,” said Guliyev. “I really enjoyed this moment and I have to say big thank you to all the fans.”
Herman surprises in women’s 100m hurdles
There was a huge upset in the women’s 100m hurdles, not in the sense that it won by an athlete from Belarus – most were expecting that – but that the athlete striking gold was not favourite Alina Talay but her teammate Elvira Herman.
Talay came to grief midway through the race and could only walk to the finish after her medal dream turned into a nightmare, but in the meantime Herman powered to glory in 12.67, a few inches in front of Germany’s Pamela Dutkiewicz (12.72). Cindy Roleder rounded out the medals for the host nation with an excellent bronze medal in a season’s best of 12.77.
“When I was in the blocks, I do not know why but I was only thinking about the gold: no silver, no bronze, just gold,” said Herman. “I was just a little bit nervous but I knew I was strong enough to fight for it. It was my race.”
Stefanidi tops 4.85m championships record
Ekaterini Stefanidi produced another nerveless performance in the women’s pole vault, the Greek vaulter successfully defending her title with a championship record of 4.85m. Stefanidi was inch-perfect up and over 4.80m, and she knew then she had one hand on the gold.
At 4.85m, she sailed clear at the third attempt to seal a memorable win. “I came here with a completely different mentality as I never had to defend a title before so it was very stressful,” she said. “That wasn't expected at all, so I'm very happy to be here and to have achieved another title. I hope I can defend more titles in the future, starting with the World Indoors next year.”
Her closest rival was compatriot Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou, who soared over a season’s best of 4.80m to take silver. Britain’s Holly Bradshaw claimed bronze with a best clearance of 4.75m.
Rohler takes javelin showdown
In the men’s javelin, the expected three-way clash between Germans Thomas Rohler, Andreas Hofmann and Johannes Vetter didn’t materialise, not that anyone in the home crowd was concerned at how things played out.
The competition saw Thomas Rohler add the European title to his Olympic crown, the 26-year-old throwing a best of 89.47m, which arrived in the second round and proved more than good enough for gold.
“The atmosphere was amazing, the audience was behind every throw,” said Rohler, who was then asked the secret to the host nation’s success. “We have so many strong throwers because all this has been built up, it is a long process to build a javelin team. We share knowledge, we put our heads together, the secret is not to have secret. I am super happy.”
Rohler’s compatriot Andreas Hofmann took silver with a best of 87.60m, with Estonia’s Magnus Kirt claiming bronze with 85.96m. Germany’s Johannes Vetter was well off his best in fifth, managing only 83.27m.
The men’s 3000 steeplechase showcased another supreme display by France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, who coasted away from his rivals on the final lap to come home in splendid isolation, winning his fifth European title in 8:31.66.
“I achieved something historic,” said Mekhissi-Benabbad, who now has three European 3000m steeplechase crowns and one 1500m title. “It was not easy when you are the leader, when you are the contender. There was a lot of stress, a lot of emotions. I was so tense. There are many young runners who are chasing me, but I have been training every day, questioning myself, and I didn’t ever drop, didn’t ever abate.”
Spain’s Fernando Carrot took silver in 8:34.16, while Italy’s Yohanes Chiappinelli won bronze in 8:35.81.
Johnson-Thompson leads Thiam by 87 points after day 1
After the first day of the heptathlon, world and Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium remains well on course to add the European crown to her decorated list of achievements.
The 23-year-old sits second on 3930 points, well down on the current leading mark of 4017 held by Britain’s Katarina Jonson-Thompson but an advantage that should – at least on paper – be closed down on day two.
Thiam started her day with a 13.69 clocking in the 100m hurdles, then moved up to second overall after a strong if unexceptional high jump of 1.91m. A shot put best of 15.35m put her into the lead for the first time, which was soon relinquished in the 200m, where she clocked 24.81.
Johnson-Thompson remains her biggest threat after an opening day where the Briton clocked 13.34 in the 100m hurdles, cleared 1.91m in the high jump, threw 13.09m in the shot put and clocked 22.88 in the 200m. “It has been a great day for me,” said Johnson-Thompson. “Tomorrow, I want to continue to be strong like this.”
Lying third overnight is Germany’s Carolin Schafer on 3848 poins, with Austria’s Ivona Dadic fourth on 3846 and reigning European champion Anouk Vetter of the Netherlands fifth with 3802.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF