German distance runner Alina Reh in Gavle (© Getty Images)
Germany’s Alina Reh and Belarus’ Elvira Herman clocked championship records in the 10,000m and 100m hurdles respectively to provide the highlights of the first half of the European Athletics U23 Championships in the Swedish city of Gavle, both standards being set in the evening session on Friday (12).
Reh started as the overwhelming favourite over 25 laps of the track not just because on paper she was over a minute quicker than her nearest rival but also because of her excellent record in continental age-group championships and she made her race plan clear right from the gun.
Tracked by her compatriot Miriam Dattke during the first two laps, Reh uncorked an opening kilometre of 3:06.61 and from that point she embarked on a solo time trail.
Although Reh eased back on the throttle in the subsequent kilometres, she still went through the halfway point in 15:42.70 before continuing to tick off laps between 75 and 77 seconds, lapping everyone in the field apart from Dattke, before crossing the line in 31:39.34.
Despite missing her recent personal best of 31:19.87 by almost 20 seconds, her winning time took 0.46 from the championship record of Turkey’s Yasemin Can set in 2017, which witnesses and pundits at the time thought was likely to last far longer than just two years.
“Throughout the race I tried to stay focused, and not to go too fast. I found my pace and kept my rhythm; then I decided I should aim for the championship record, why not?” reflected Reh nonchalantly, who will try to double back in the 5000m on the final day on Sunday.
Dattke, the 2017 European U20 5000m champion, kept her focus after Reh had shrugged her off a kilometre into the race to take the silver in a personal best of 32:29.45.
Herman hurdles into the record books
Like Reh, Herman started the 100m hurdles as the prohibitive favourite and that impression was definitely still there after two clinical and controlled wins in her heat and semi.
In similar fashion to the German, the Berlin 2018 European senior champion also secured her gold medal almost immediately after the gun following a superb start.
Herman was ahead at the first hurdle and never seriously challenged after that before winning in 12.70. Poland’s Klaudia Siciarz took the silver medal in a personal best of 12.82.
“It's exciting to run a championship record, I wanted to show that form here. It was a very interesting race, the other girls pushed me to that fast time,” commented Herman although, in truth, her lead meant it’s probably doubtful she was aware of what was happening behind her from even the second barrier.
Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou had also taken senior continental honours in the German capital last summer and now he has the full set of European long jump titles as he’s the reigning European U20 champion until next week and also took the European indoor crown back in March.
With the gold medal already in his possession thanks to first round 8.22m produced in response to Spain’s Hector Santos who had earlier opened with a personal best of 8.19m and which eventually sufficed for the silver, Tentoglou flew out to an outdoor best of 8.32m with the last jump of the competition.
Winning debut for Gressier
Like Reh, France’s Jimmy Gressier will also bid for a distance double at the championships following his 10,000m triumph on Thursday.
The Frenchman took the first gold medal of the championships in emphatic fashion on his debut over the distance on the track.
For much of the race Gressier was content just to stay close to the front of a tightly bunched leading group which included the dangerous Israeli trio of Tadesse Getahon, Godadaw Belachew and Bukayaw Malede who controlled the pace and took the pack through the halfway point in 14:32.52.
However, with just under four laps to go, Gressier suddenly changed gear and threw down the gauntlet. Getahon initially failed to cover the break and took about 200 metres to get back in contact with the Frenchman before the latter surged decisively for a second time.
Celebrating in exuberant fashion down the home straight, Gressier crossed the line in 28:44.19 to add to his two European U23 cross country gold medals.
The 100m titles went to Poland’s Ewa Svoboda in 11.15 and Sweden’s Henrik Larsson in 10.23w, the latter victory inevitably eliciting the biggest cheers of the day.
Larsson’s win also made up for the earlier disastrous showing of reigning 800m champion and home crowd favourite Andreas Kramer, who crashed out of his 800m heat and failed to qualify for Sunday’s final, which had been scheduled deliberately as one of the last events of the championships.
Kramer, the Swedish national record holder and 2018 European Championships silver medallist, looked the part for 700 metres and was in a qualifying position before seemingly, and apparently inexplicably, going backwards down the home straight.
It latter transpired that Kramer had been recently suffering from a severe bout of flu and the virus was still far from extinct.
One week, two titles for Bukowiecki
One champion who did defend his title was Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki, who sent his shot out to 21.51m in the fourth round to win by more than a metre – albeit with a distance eight centimetres short of his championship record from two years ago – with Italy’s Leonardo Fabbri second with 20.50m.
For Bukowiecki, it was his second major title in just five days after winning at the World University Games in Italy on Monday.
Favourites who also won in Gavle included Switzerland’s Jason Joseph, the 2017 European U20 110m hurdles champion adding to his gold medal collection with a run of 13.45, while Lithuania’s Diana Zagainova was the women’s triple jump winner with 13.89m.
The women’s throws saw convincing wins for Croatia’s 19-year-old Marija Tolj, who took the discus title by more than five metres with 62.76m, and hammer thrower Sofiya Palkina, competing as an Authorised Neutral Athlete, who sent her implement out to a winning distance of 71.08m in the third round.
An enthralling heptathlon over the first two days ended with Switzerland’s Geraldine Ruckstahl putting together a gold medal-winning tally of 6274 to beat Germany’s Sophie Weissenberg by 99 points.
Ruckstahl clinched her victory with two outstanding last disciplines, throwing 54.82m in the javelin and then running a personal best of 2:12.05 in the 800m, although her ambitions of putting together an overall personal best in excess of 6400 disappeared on a cold and windy opening day on Thursday.
Athletics days 3 and 4 live stream
You can watch a live stream of all the action from the final two days of the European Athletics U23 Championships via https://athletics.eurovisionsports.tv/event/30/european-athletics-u23-championships-gavle.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF