First there was fear, then there was deference, and in the end there was nothing but absolute resignation from Europe’s best distance runners.
At the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on Saturday night (11), Jakob Ingebrigtsen, 17 years old, etched his name among the greats of European distance running, becoming the first man to ever achieve the 1500m/5000m double at the European Championships.
And he made it look oh-so-easy.
France’s Florian Carvalho tried to draw the sting out of the Ingebrigtsens in the early stages, pulling the field through 2000 metres in 5:24.25, but all the while brothers Henrik and Jakob ran quietly in the pack, even exchanging a high-five at one point, such was their ease.
Switzerland’s Julien Wanders took the pace on in the fourth kilometre, but with three laps to run Jakob Ingebrigtsen moved to the front. That was where he stayed, winding the pace up over the final lap – which he covered in 54.09 – to seal a historic double.
He hit the line in complete control in 13:17.06, breaking his own European U20 record. Older brother Henrik claimed the silver in 13:18.75 and quickly paid tribute to his sibling. “I was there when he was born, but I’m not sure he is 17 because he is crazy good,” said Henrik.
“Winning a second title in two days is the result of having done this my whole life,” said Jakob. “We started preparing for the 5K final as soon as we crossed the line in the 1500m last night. It was a little crazy to get this medal. This is huge.”
The bronze went to France’s Morhad Amdouni, the 10,000m champion, in 13:19.14.
Asher-Smith completes dash double
There was an equally jaw-dropping performance in the women’s 200m final, Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith leaving her rivals trailing in a different time zone around the bend as she opened up a yawning advantage.
Try as she might, Dafne Schippers couldn’t reel her in close to home, and the Briton backed up her 100m gold with a stunning British record of 21.89, the fastest time in the world this year. Schippers came home second in 22.14, with Dutch compatriot Jamile Samuels third in an equal PB of 22.37.
“I can’t believe I’ve run 21.8!” said Asher-Smith. “I didn't expect to run this fast when I'm still tired from the 100 metres final. I’m very proud of myself.”
Adam Kszczot claimed his third successive European title with a typically astute race in the men’s 800m final, the Pole swooping to the lead around the last turn and kicking clear of Pierre-Ambroise Bosse to win in 1:44.59.
Sweden’s Andreas Kramer made the early pace a respectable one, but Bosse circled the field to tow them through 400m in 53.14. However, the world champion from France had no answer to Kszczot’s huge move on the final turn, and he faded up the home straight to third in 1:45.30, with Kramer staying on strongly again to take silver in a Swedish record of 1:45.03.
“I did something what nobody else did before – I won three titles in a row and I feel so emotional,” said Kszczot. “To win this title was four times harder that the one in 2014. You have to spare some energy for the finish and it was just the technique, technique, technique – to hit it and to keep the pace. I am glad I managed it tonight.”
Poland’s Justyna Swiety-Ersetic produced a stunning performance to snatch gold in the dying strides of the women’s 400m, the 25-year-old clawing back Greece’s Maria Belibasaki to win in 50.41, mere inches in front of Belibasaki’s 50.45 national record.
“I am shocked, really surprised,” said Swiety-Ersetic. “It makes me the second-fastest woman in Polish history and is the first European gold for our country at this distance so it means a lot. Irena Szewinska, who passed away this year, got only bronze so it is very emotional and important for me.”
Lisanne de Witte claimed bronze in a Dutch record of 50.77.
Double jumps gold for Germany
The action was no less pulsating in the field events, particularly when the 60,500-strong crowd had a pair of German gold medals to celebrate. Mateusz Przybylko caused a thunderous eruption of euphoria to break out in the stands midway through the men’s 5000m final, the German sailing clear of 2.35m to wrap up the gold medal in the men’s high jump.
That was a PB, and when Belarus’s Maksim Nedasekau could not match him on two attempts at 2.35m or one at 2.37m, gold was the German’s. Nedasekau equalled his PB in second with 2.33m, while neutral athlete Ilya Ivanyuk set a PB of 2.31m to take bronze.
Germany also unearthed gold in the women’s long jump, with Malaika Mihambo taking a memorable victory with a best of 6.75m. Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh took silver with a best of 6.73m, while Shara Proctor took bronze with 6.70m.
Event favourite Ivana Spanovic was forced to withdraw earlier in the day after injuring her achilles tendon during qualification.
One of the biggest favourites of the championships nearly faltered in the women’s discus final, but then again there’s a reason Sandra Perkovic has two Olympic golds, two world titles and four European titles to her name.
Actually, make that five European titles, because in the fifth round of the discus final tonight, the Croatian averted calamity and found her form when it mattered, throwing a whopping 67.62m to take gold. Until then, she had struggled to find her rhythm, but her effort proved enough to take gold by almost five metres from Germans Nadine Muller (63.00m) and Shanice Craft (62.46m).
“My plan was to shock my opponents in the first attempts,” said Muller. “When I achieved 63 metres, I knew this was not going to be enough for the gold. If you know Sandra, you know that she will pull one out sooner or later.”
The 4x400m relays delivered their usual dose of drama, the winners of both men’s and women’s races coming from behind to snatch gold in the home straight.
In the men’s event, Team Borlee – also known as Belgium – kicked to victory in 2:59.47. Dylan Borlee led them off with a 46.1 leg, then handed over to brother Jonathan who clocked 44.76. Next up was the non-Borlee, world U20 400m champion Jonathan Sacoor, who clocked 44.70, then it was all down to Kevin Borlee, who swept past Spain on his final leg, which he covered in a blazing 43.91.
Britain came through strongly via a 44.24 leg from Martyn Rooney to take silver in 3:00.36, with Spain moving from first to third due to some highly uneven pacing from anchor runner Bruno Hortelano, who hit the line in 3:00.78 for bronze.
The women’s race was won by Poland after a savvy final leg from Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, who returned to the track after her earlier victory in the 400m and clocked a 51.71 leg to claim gold in 3:26.59. France took silver in 3:27.17 after a fine anchor leg from Floria Guei, with Britain taking bronze in 3:27.40.
Spaniards stride to two golds
At the 20km race walks on Saturday morning, Spain celebrated a golden double as Alvaro Martin and Maria Perez claimed the titles.
After a delayed start to the women’s race due to a suspected gas leak, both races set off together and the first to the finish was Martin, who set off with two kilometres to go in the men’s race, leaving behind teammate Diego Garcia Carrera and neutral athlete Vasiliy Mizinov.
Martin came home in 1:20:42 to earn Spain their fourth title in the past five editions of this event, with Garcia Carrera second in 1:20:48 and Mizinov taking third in 1:20:50.
“During the last 100 metres, I was thinking about all the challenges I had to overcome in the last few months,” he said. “Right now, I want to enjoy because I'm feeling like a student who needs to prepare for an assessment and today, it was my final exam.”
In the women’s race, Maria Perez was a class apart, the Spaniard setting a championship record of 1:26:36 to take gold ahead of Czech Republic’s Anezka Drahatova (1:27:03) with Italy’s Antonella Palmisano third in 1:27:30.
“I really didn't care about the finishing time, all I wanted was gold,” said Perez. “But I'm happy I improved my mark by almost two minutes.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF