Ten months on from what became affectionately known in Britain as ‘Super Saturday’, the unforgettable evening at the London Olympics when Jessica Ennis (Heptathlon), Greg Rutherford (Long Jump) and Mo Farah (10,000m) all won gold medals for the host nation, there was frisson of déjà vu in the air on the opening day (22) of the European Team Championships, some 300 miles north of England’s capital city at Gateshead.
Farah was out on the track, biding his time in the 5000m, getting ready to unleash the deadliest of kicks. Rutherford was getting ready to roll on the Long Jump runway. And ‘Jess’ had already got the ball rolling with the first British victory of the day – the New Jess, that is.
An 800m win by 18-year-old World junior silver medallist Jessica Judd, on the occasion of her senior international debut, was one of the highlights of the day on windy, overcast Tyneside.
So was a final-round 8.36m effort that secured victory for Aleksandr Menkov in the Long Jump, the Russian’s third success of the season against Rutherford, who – hampered by an unspecified “niggling” injury – had to be content with third place, courtesy of a windy fourth-round 8.02m.
Then there were the heroics on the track and in the field that put the German team in the lead with 195 points at the halfway stage with Russia second (194) and Britain third (181). Christina Obergfoll entered the record books as the first four-time European Team Championships winner in any event, prevailing in the Javelin with a third-round 62.64m.
And Silvio Schirrmeister, a former European junior champion, claimed the scalp of the out-of-sorts World 400m Hurdles champion Dai Greene, clocking 49.15 to the Briton’s 49.39.
Without any doubt, though, the stand-out sight of the day was Farah taking off Usain Bolt-style on the final lap of the 5000m.
Given Farah’s clear superiority to his continental rivals, the race could have been a meaningless routine affair for him. Instead, to the delight of the 11,000 crowd, the 30-year-old Briton turned it into a test of the raw sprinting speed he has been developing in training. He did so to stunning effect.
By the finish, Farah was 2.91 seconds clear of his closest pursuer, Frenchman Bouabdellah Tahri, crossing the line in a modest 14:10.00. His split time for the final 400m lap was anything but modest, clocked at 50.89. By comparison, Farah’s final lap in the Olympic 5000m final last year was 52.9.
The double Olympic champion might have been beaten by the lingering effects of a virus, and by Kenya’s Edwin Soi, at the IAAF Diamond League 5000m in Eugene three weeks ago, but if any of his rivals have serious designs on his 5000m title at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August (and on the 10,000m) they had better get out the starting blocks quickly.
“It’s important to work on your tactics,” Farah said. “I got a text from my coach, Alberto Salazar, saying to wait until the last lap, and I did. I’ve done my bit for the team.”
Judd could say the same. The coltish teenager has been making rapid strides as an 800m runner this summer and she was utterly unfazed by the seasoned internationals alongside her, hitting the front with 250m to go and hanging on to beat Ekaterina Sharmina of Russia by 0.04 in 2:00.82. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I didn’t expect to do that well.”
Jimmy Vicaut seemed almost unaffected by the -4.1m/s headwind in the 100m, winning in 10.28. Over one lap, GB captain Perri Shakes-Drayton clocked a lifetime best of 50.50 in the women’s event, while Russia’s Vladimir Krasnov came through strong at the end to win the men’s race in 45.69.
Aside from the victories from Obergfoll and Schirrmeister, Germany’s day-one lead was also boosted by maximum points from World champion David Storl in the Shot and Silke Spiegelburg in the Pole Vault.
Storl defeated two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski in a close contest, 20.47m to 20.29m. Spiegelburg prevailed with 4.60m in a competition where European indoor champion Holly Bleasdale failed to register a height.
World champion Olha Saladuha was largely unchallenged in the Triple Jump, winning with 14.49m, while Ukrainian team-mate Bohdan Bondarenko won the High Jump on countback with 2.28m.
There were clear Russian distance victories from Yelena Korobkina in the 3000m (9:01.45) and Natalya Aristarkhova in the 3000m Steeplechase, running a European-leading 9:30.64.
Eilidh Child sliced more than half a second off her PB with a stunning win in the 400m hurdles in 54.42, and Olympic finalist Melina Robert-Michon threw a season’s best of 63.75m to win the Discus.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF