Karsten Warholm wins the 400m hurdles at the European U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Bydgoszcz, Poland

Warholm recovers quickly to take European U23 400m hurdles title in Bydgoszcz

Karsten Warholm tried an audacious double of the 400m and 400m hurdles at the European U23 Championships Bydgoszcz 2017 and although it didn’t come off completely, his win over the barriers in a championship record of 48.37 still made him debatably the man of the championships after the four-day event finished on Sunday (16).

The Norwegian had to settle for the silver medal in the 400m – in which he leads this year’s European list with 44.87 – behind Slovenia’s Luka Janezic on Saturday, the latter clocking 45.33 to Warholm’s 45.75 as he tied up over the final 50 metres. With five races over the previous three days in his legs, there were thoughts that Warholm might be under pressure in the event in which he ran 48.25 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo last month.

However, the 2013 world U18 octathlon champion was in the lead from almost the gun and crossed the line in 48.37, the second fastest time of his nascent career at this event.

“Very tired, very happy, very pleased with the championships record,” gasped Warholm immediately after the race as the former record-holder, Poland’s Marek Plawgo, watched from the stands after seeing his 14-year-old mark of 48.45 consigned to history.

It was not, perhaps, the most insightful of interviews but it gave a reflection of the effort Warholm had expended during the championships and provoked the inevitable question: What if Warholm had just concentrated on the hurdles?

Switzerland’s Dany Brand also advertised himself as one of the emerging stars of the event. Having arrived in Bydgoszcz with a best of 50.79, Brand set a personal best in every round and took the silver behind Warholm in a national U23 record of 49.14.

The other championship record in men’s events over the weekend fell to Slovakian sprinter Jan Volko in the 200m. After his silver medal in the 100m on Friday, Volko returned to the track and ran a blistering half-lap of the Zawisza Stadium track in an absolute national record of 20.33.

Can captures distance double

If the men’s honour of being the performer of the championships was open to debate – also remembering the feats of local shot put star Konrad Bukowiecki during the first two days – then there was little doubt that Turkey’s Yasemin Can should be accorded the women’s accolade.

Can, only 20 but also the winner of the European 5000m and 10,000m senior titles last summer, set a 10,000m championship record of 31:39.80 on Friday and followed it up by romping to a 5000m championship record of 15:01.67 on Sunday.

She flew through an opening kilometre in 2:58.96 and from that point it was just a question not of who the winner would be or if the former championship best of 15:16.79 would be broken, but whether Can could finish within 15 minutes.

In the end she couldn’t, a relatively slow fourth kilometre put paid to that target as a realistic ambition, but she still produced a jaw-dropping and emphatic display of distance running.

Behind Can, there was a fascinating battle for the silver medal between Germany’s Alina Reh and Sweden’s 10,000m silver medallist Sarah Lahti.

Reh sprinted away from Lahti on the last lap to finish in a personal best of 15:10.57 while Lahti was also inside the former championship record when she finished third in 15:14.17.

As emphatic a winner as Can was, Germany’s Konstanze Kosterhalfen, after a pedestrian first 700 metres in the 1500m, sprinted away with two laps to go and just left everyone trailing a long way back in her wake before winning by more than three seconds in 4:10.30.

The championships were graced by Olympic javelin champion and world leader Sara Kolak, with the Croatian saying that the meeting was a vital part of her preparations for the IAAF World Championships in two weeks’ time, and she fulfilled her role as favourite with a second-round throw of 65.12m clinching the win.

Kolak was never under pressure despite Latvia's Anete Kocina throwing a personal best of 64.47m in the last round.

Moller makes it look easy

Other pre-championship favourites to take their predicted gold over the final two days included a plethora of Scandinavian athletes.

Denmark’s Anna Emilie Moller, still only 19 and eligible to defend her title in Sweden in two years’ time, won the 3000m steeplechase almost as she pleased in 9:43.05 for her country’s first gold at these championships since the inaugural edition in 1997.

Norwegian discus thrower Svein Martin Skagestad struggled to find his form initially but threw 61.00m in the fifth round and that stood up for the victory. By contrast, Swedish shot putter Fanny Roos had five marks better than the best of the rest and, with the gold already won, sent her implement out to 18.14m.

However, inevitably, there were a fair share of upsets.

Perhaps the most notable was Spain’s unheralded but clearly well-drilled women’s 4x100m quartet. With Great Britain and Germany both making a mess of their changeovers and failing to finish their heats, Spain took their big chance with aplomb and won the final, helped by a superb last leg from Cristina Lara.

Individuals to upset the form book included Hungary’s Norbert Rivasz-Toth, who set a national javelin record of 83.08m and defeated Greece’s heavily-favoured Ioannis Kiriazis, who had to settle for second more than two metres in arrears with 81.04m.

Latvia’s Gunta Latiseva-Cudare showed that her national U23 400m record of 51.80 in the semifinals was no fluke when she triumphed in 52.00 to leave behind several rivals who, on paper prior to the championships, seemed a much better bet for the gold.

David fells the long jump goliaths

France’s Yanis David got it right when it counted most and moved up from sixth to first in the final round of the long jump when she uncorked a leap of 6.56m, the only personal best of the competition from the 13 long jump finalists.

Italian men’s distance running is clearly in good shape as evidenced by the wins of Yemaneberhan Crippa in the 5000m and Yohannes Chiappinelli in the 3000m steeplechase.

Crippa won his title with a thrilling burst of acceleration, going past three men in the final 50 metres and winning in 14:14.28, while the diminutive Chiappinelli – dwarfed on the medal podium by his tall teammate and eventual silver medallist Ahmed Abdelwahed – took a different approach and ran away from his opponents after barely two laps before taking the title in 8:34.33.

It was notable that 24 countries got gold medals in Bydgoszcz from 44 medal disciplines with the medal table being topped by Germany’s tally of four golds, six silver and eight bronze.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF