Sandra Perkovic at the 2014 European Athletics Championships (© Getty Images)
World-leading performances by Olympic champions Sandra Perkovic and Krisztian Pars provided the highlights of the fifth day of action at the European Championships in Zurich on Saturday (16).
Perkovic produced the most dominant performance of the week with a fifth-round 71.08m national record effort to secure her third successive continental discus throw title.
The Croatian won by nearly six metres, the biggest margin of victory in the event in the history of the European Championships, and was the best throw in the world since 1992.
“The world lead and national record is perfect for me. Now I will see if I have something further in me for the rest of the season,” said Perkovic, who improved on her own world season lead of 70.52m from May’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai.
Melina Robert-Michon of France reached 65.33m for silver, exactly one metre better than bronze medallist Shanice Craft.
Pars defends, extends personal best and world lead to 82.69m
Earlier, Pars won a dramatic hammer throw showdown with Poland’s world champion Pawel Fajdek to become just the second back-to-back title winner in the event at the European Championships.
Pars led after a first-round 78.11m effort, but was overtaken briefly in the second when Fajdek reached 78.45m.
The Hungarian then responded with an 82.18m heave in round three to put the competition as good as out of reach.
Fajdek kept the pressure on, threatening for the lead in the fifth round with an 82.05m effort, the third-farthest of his career, but that only managed to stoke Pars’s competitive fire as he closed the competition with a massive 82.69m bomb.
“The European title is amazing, especially because I managed to improve step-by-step in every attempt,” said Pars, who has twice improved his personal best this season.
Sergey Litvinov of Russia took the bronze thanks to a 79.35m effort in round five.
Litvinov is the son of former world record-holder Sergey Litvinov, who won silver and bronze at these championships in 1986 and 1982 respectively.
As expected, the men’s pole vault was all about world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie, who needed just two jumps to capture his third straight title.
The Frenchman entered the competition at 5.65m, a height just four others managed, and then sealed the win with a first-round clearance at 5.80m after the rest of the field had already bowed out at 5.75m.
He went on to clear 5.90m with his second attempt before ending the competition with three tries at a would-be championship record of 6.01m.
Poland’s 2011 world champion Pawel Wojciechowski took silver on count back over Czech Republic’s Jan Kudlicka and France’s Kevin Menaldo who shared the bronze. All three men cleared 5.70m.
Daunay captures first marathon triumph
In the day’s first event, France’s Christelle Daunay broke from Italy’s Valeria Straneo in the 40th kilometre to cruise to a long-awaited victory in the women’s marathon with a 2:25:14 championship record.
“I did it. I highlighted a beautiful career with the most beautiful medal,” said Daunay, whose victory was her first over the distance in nine tries.
“It was not easy, the time shows it. I had to be there, I had to be patient. I felt very confident about myself and tactically I made the right choice,” she added.
Patience was key in her battle with Straneo. The pair ran virtually together from the start, taking turns at or near the front as the pack gradually dwindled over the four-loop course.
About eight women were at the front at 10km, passed in 34:30, and six were together five kilometres later, a 51:42 split.
By the midway point the pace had reduced the leaders to just a trio: Daunay, Straneo and Turkey’s former 5000m world record-holder Elvan Abeylegesse.
The latter was dropped by 30km, leaving just two to duel for the next 10 kilometres. Daunay’s decisive move with two kilometres remaining quickly created a three-second gap, one she’d stretch to a comfortable 13 seconds by the time she reached the finish line.
Straneo clocked 2:25:27 for silver with Portugal’s Jessica Augusto taking the bronze in 2:25:41. All three were well under the previous championship mark of 2:26:05 set by Italy’s Maria Guida in 2002.
Arzamasova outsprints Sharp
The 800m was a two-woman race until the final 50 metres when Maryna Arzamasova broke away and left defending champion Lynsey Sharp in her wake to win in 1:58.15.
It was a big personal best for the 26-year-old, who was the bronze medallist in these championships two years ago and has since raced to world and European indoor bronze.
“Everything worked great today: the weather, the opponents, my body,” said Arzamasova, who arrived in Zurich with a 1:59.30 best from 2011.
“My plan was to run fast from the beginning because I feel much more comfortable in a fast race and I had enough strength in the finish too. However, I was happy to let Sharp be at the front and the pace was not too fast for me.”
Sharp, who led the field through the bell and into the home stretch, clocked 1:58.80 for a Scottish record and her second major silver medal of the summer after her Commonwealth accolade.
Three-peat for Saladukha
Following the examples set by Perkovic and Lavillenie, Olga Saladukha won her third successive triple jump title with a narrow four-centimetre victory over Russia’s world indoor champion Yekaterina Koneva.
The Ukrainian leapt 14.73m in the second round, a jump that would hold up for the win.
Koneva’s best of 14.69m also came in the second round in a competition in which no other woman reached 14.50m.
Bahta upsets Hassan at 5000m
In a tactical women’s 5000m, Meraf Bahta foiled a pair of double victory aspirations while claiming the first medal of any kind at this distance for Sweden.
The 25-year-old, who fled to Sweden from her native Eritrea four years ago, dictated the pace for much of the race’s waning stages and still managed to beat back Friday’s 1500m winner Sifan Hassan’s late race challenge to take the gold in 15:31.39.
Hassan, who moved from the middle of the pack to second over the final lap, couldn’t quite mustre the speed to overtake Bahta, and had to settle for second in 15:31.79.
Great Britain’s 10,000m champion Jo Pavey was in the hunt until the bell but faded over the final lap and finished seventh.
Child takes 400m hurdles gold
Finally, in the women’s 400m hurdles, Eilidh Child of Great Britain held off a stiff two-pronged attack in the final 15 metres to win her first international senior title.
Carrying a slight lead into the final straight off of the ninth hurdle, the two-time Commonwealth Games silver medallist reached the line in 54.48, fending off the late charge by Ukraine’s Anna Titimets, who took the silver in 54.56, and Russia’s 2012 European champion Irina Davydova, who was third this time in 54.60.
In qualifying action in the relays, Germany (38.15) and Great Britain (38.26) were the quickest in the men’s 4x100m relay.
France (42.29) were the fastest in the women’s 4x100m first round while defending champions Germany didn’t finish after a botched exchange.
In the 4x400m relay, Great Britain (3:00.65) and Ukraine (3:28.18) led the men’s and women’s qualifiers respectively.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF