If ever there was a doubt about the current superpower of European sprinting, it was erased at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on Tuesday night (7), where British sprinters Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes powered to 100m glory in blazing times on the first full day of action at the European Championships.
Asher-Smith lined up as the overwhelming favourite for the women’s title, arriving off the back of a dazzling summer where she set a British record of 10.92 and cruised to the British title in 10.97. Repeat that, she knew, and the 22-year-old would claim her first European 100m title.
She went one better, emerging from the blocks alongside her rivals but then powering into her pick-up like she was in a rush to be somewhere else. It was a gear her rivals had no answer to, and Asher-Smith was only drawing further clear when she crossed the line in 10.85 in perfectly still conditions (0.0m/s), equalling the world lead and breaking the British record.
The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for runner-up Gina Luckenkemper, who finished second in 10.98, equalling the time she ran two hours earlier in the semi-final.
“These are happy tears,” said Luckenkemper. “I knew I was able to run sub 11 and now I even managed to do so twice! A dream has come true for me.”
Luckenkemper came home an inch ahead of Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, who was third in 10.99. “Medals count so I am happy and this was also my best race of the season,” said the defending champion. “All the girls are very strong and I think the level of the sprints in Europe is rising.”
Twenty minutes later, Britons Zharnel Hughes, Reece Prescod and Chijindu Ujah went to their marks for the men’s 100m final knowing a possible medal sweep was on the cards, particularly after the withdrawal through injury of France’s Jimmy Vicaut, who had blitzed a championship record of 9.97 in the semi-final.
They came awfully close, scooping first, second and fourth positions in the final. Hughes edged compatriot Prescod to gold, setting a championship record of 9.95 (0.0m/s) ahead of Prescod’s 9.96 PB.
Turkey’s Jak Ali Harvey claimed bronze with 10.01, while Ujah was fourth in 10.06.
“It was a great day for Great Britain winning two golds and one silver in sprints,” said Hughes. “This was my main focus of the whole season and I’m glad I made these fans happy as they were cheering for us a lot.”
Prescod’s flying finish very nearly saw him take gold, but the 22-year-old will certainly have a bright future after silver here. “This medal is a bit bittersweet because my plan was to win, but I am still young,” he said.
Polish 1-2 in hammer and shot
If it was Britain’s night on the track, it was Poland in the field, their dominance even more pronounced as they claimed gold and silver in both throws finals.
The men’s hammer, as expected, boiled down to a two-way clash between compatriots Wojciech Nowicki and Pawel Fajdek, and it was Nowicki who produced his best when it counted most, beating the three-time world champion in convincing fashion.
Nowicki seized command in the first round with his throw of 77.19m, only for Fajdek to step into the circle and surpass him with 78.69m. Nowicki struck right back, launching 80.00m in the second round before adding to his advantage in the third with 80.12m.
That was more than good enough for gold, Fajdek fouling three times before being unable to improve in his two final efforts. “Wojciech is my good friend and he was the champion today,” said a gracious Fajdek. “I wanted to win, but I think I just missed some energy. Next year, I will take my time to get back on top.”
Hungary’s Bence Halasz took the bronze with a best of 77.36m.
In the shot put, Michal Haratyk led another Polish 1-2, the 26-year-old going one better than his silver medal in Amsterdam two years ago to grab gold with 21.72m. Rising star Konrad Bukowiecki claimed silver with an outdoor PB of 21.66m, while Germany’s defending champion David Storl roused the home crowd by taking bronze with 21.41m.
“It was a really good day for the Polish athletics,” said Haratyk. “I am very glad for Konrad but until the sixth attempt, I felt in danger. I knew all these guys are very strong and are able to throw further. I was lucky this time.”
Bukowiecki was fully content with silver, at least for now. “For me, this result is great: it is my PB outdoors and my third best throw ever,” said the 21-year-old. “It is not a shame to lose to this guy. Michal is very strong and I am glad we managed to top the podium together.”
Back in third, Storl will have more than a bronze medal to celebrate as he also earned a spot at the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018, given only one from each country can represent Europe in each event.
“I am definitely happy with this medal, it is my fourth at the European Championships,” he said. “This competition was on a very high level. But I was missing the last bit of luck, the luck one needed to slap one out.”
Amdouni leaves it late
The men’s 10,000m was won not so much by endurance but through speed and strength, France’s Morhad Amdouni playing his cards late to take gold in 28:11.22, a few metres clear of Belgium’s Bashir Abdi (28:11.76) and Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa (28:12.15).
After a steady opening, Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen pushed the pace through the middle kilometres, passing the half-way point in 14:08.93. But that was doing little to take him away from the field. With a little over 1000 metres to run, Spain’s Adel Mechaal seized command, but the European indoor 3000m champion was found wanting when the gears turned on the final lap.
Belgium’s Bashir Abdi blasted past on the back straight, holding the lead until the final turn, at which point Amdouni launched his kick for the win.
“I have come from very far, I have had many big difficulties but I did not give up,” said Amdouni. “Today, I am over the moon.”
In the 50km race walks, Ines Henrique of Portugal and Maryan Zakalnytskyy claimed gold in dominant style. Henriques was a class apart in the women’s event, the 38-year-old clocking 4:09:21 in oppressive heat to come home more than three minutes clear of Ukraine’s Alina Tsviliy (4:12:44), who in turn was almost three minutes clear of Spain’s Julia Takacs (4:15:22).
“Had the temperatures not been so hot, I could have aimed for a better time but I’m very pleased I am able to add the European title to the world title,” said Henriques.
Zakalnytskyy won the men’s event with ease ahead of Olympic champion Matej Toth of Slovakia, the Ukrainian’s winning time of 3:46:32 giving him 55 seconds to spare over Toth at the finish. Belarus’s Dzmitriy Dziubin took the bronze with a PB of 3:47:59.
“This victory is not mine, it belongs first of all to my coaches and all the people who believed in me before this event,” said Zakalnytskyy. “My training results were not so good before the championships so I had many doubts if I can make it today.”
On day one of the men’s decathlon, there was drama in the long jump as all three French athletes – Kevin Mayer, Ruben Gado and Romain Martin – turned in three fouls and ruined their medal hopes. World champion Mayer immediately called a halt to his decathlon, while Gado and Martin continued, the pair now sitting at the bottom of the standings overnight.
Mayer’s absence opens the door for home favourite Arthur Abele. He currently sits in second place, 95 points behind overnight leader Tim Duckworth of Great Britain, but the German has some strong events to come on day two.
Duckworth, the NCAA champion, racked up 4380 points thanks to a 10.65 100m, a 7.57m long jump, a 13.61m shot put, 2.17m high jump and 49.87m 400m. Norway’s Martin Roe is in third behind Duckworth and Abele.
Ilya Shkurenov and Niklas Kaul are currently outside the top 10, but both can be expected to climb up the leader board on the second day of the decathlon to challenge for medals.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF