British newcomer runs 7.80 for sprint hurdles silver at European Indoor Championships
If former American Tiffany Ofili was hoping to impress her new bosses at UK Athletics on her international debut at the European Indoors, the sprint hurdler did so in impressive fashion by winning European indoor silver and twice smashing the British record.
Ofili, whose previous PB was 7.94, went into the European Indoor Championships with a season’s best of 8.04 and was third fastest overall in this morning’s heats. But in this afternoon’s semi finals, Ofili put together a near-flawless race to stop the clock in 7.89.
Less than three hours later, Ofili was back on track for the final and once again produced a stunning run, crashing to the ground after dipping for the finish as the clock initially flashed up with 7.77. But Germany’s Carolin Nytra was neck-and-neck with the Briton, and after what seemed like an eternity the victory was awarded to Nytra in 7.80.
Ofili was given the same time, but had to make do with the silver medal. Her 7.80 is an improvement of 0.15 on the previous national record held by Jessica Ennis, and moves her to 14th on the world all-time list for the 60m hurdles.
Pre-event favourite Christina Vukicevic produced another Norwegian record of 7.83, but had to settle for bronze. In an extremely high-quality race, it was just the second time in history that three women have dipped under 7.84 in the same race.
Nytra’s gold medal was the second for Germany this afternoon, as world bronze medallist Ralf Bartels threw a European-leading 21.16m to win the men’s shot. Team-mate David Storl won silver with 20.75m, in doing so becoming the youngest ever medallist in the shot at the European Indoors, while Russia’s Maksim Sidorov took bronze in 20.55m.
The women’s pentathlon came to an exciting climax, giving France their first medal of the championships and their first ever European Indoor pentathlon title. Antoniette Nana Djimou Ida was sitting in second place after this morning’s three events. She led the long jump with her 6.34m leap, but still trailed Austra Skujyte (6.25m in the long jump) in the overall standings.
The defending bronze medallist had to finish eight seconds ahead of Skujyte to win gold, which at first seemed improbably given their almost identical PBs. Meanwhile, newcomer Remona Fransen of the Netherlands had to finish within a similar margin of Poland’s Karolina Tyminska to hold on to bronze.
Tyminska, as expected, led the 800m from the start, but Fransen crossed the line a few seconds later to maintain her bronze medal with an overall score of 4665 – almost 400 points better than her previous PB.
But the gold medal was being decided further down the field in the 800m. Nana Djimou crossed the line in 2:18.99 as Skujyte was beginning to tie up. The tall Lithuanian grimaced through the line, but moments later the cheer from the home crowd told the pentathletes all they needed to know – Nana Djimou had snatched the gold medal in the final event with a national record and world-leading score of 4723, 17 points ahead of Skujyte.
The fourth and last final of the day went to the expected winner, as Petr Svoboda maintained his unbeaten streak to win in 7.49. The Czech athlete had a disappointing performance at last year’s European Championships, but bounced back in style here to become the first Czech winner of the European Indoor 60m hurdles title since Aleš Höffer in 1988.
France picked up their second medal of the day, as Garfield Darien took silver in 7.56, and Belgium’s Adrien Deghelt held on for bronze in 7.57.
After a promising morning session where all British athletes safely advanced from their preliminary rounds, the afternoon session was a bit more brutal for the Brits. Stacey Smith ran well to finish third in heat one of the 1500m, but missed out on one of the fastest loser spots by one place. Hannah England tied up in the closing stages of the second heat to finish fifth.
Russia’s Yelena Martynova was the fastest of the round with 4:09.93, but European champion Nuria Fernandez and Poland’s Sylwia Ejdys also look strong.
The bad luck continued in the men’s high jump qualification, where training partners Robbie Grabarz and Tom Parsons finished way down the pecking order, missing out on a top-eight spot. Parsons was not the only big name to falter, as Finland’s Osku Torro – who has jumped 2.33m this year – and Russian champion Sergey Mudrov also failed to make the cut.
But overwhelming favourite Ivan Ukhov safely made it through, along with European champion Aleksandr Shustov, as 2.27m proved enough to progress.
UK indoor champion Nigel Levine had a disappointing run in the first 400m semi final, missing out on a lane in the final by one place as favourite Leslie Djhone strode to victory in 46.26. But the bad British luck ended in the second semi final as Richard Buck led a GB 1-2 from Richard Strachan, clocking 46.79 and 46.94 respectively.
Polish pre-event favourites Marcin Lewandowski and Adam Kszczot looked every bit the potential medallists in the heats of the 800m. British duo Joe Thomas and Andrew Osagie also advanced, but the latter learned a lesson in championship heat running when he eased up too much before the line, having led coming off the final bend. Fortunately, Osagie finished 0.01 ahead of his third-placed opponent and will therefore feature in tomorrow’s semi final.
Medal hope Jenny Meadows was the only non-Russian winner of the four 800m heats, as Yuliya Rusanova, Yevgeniya Zinurova and Tatyana Paliyenko all impressed in winning the other three. Marilyn Okoro also qualified to tomorrow’s semi finals as a fastest loser.
Elsewhere, Teddy Tamgho continued his quest for double gold as he bounded out to a first-round 17.06m to lead the triple jump qualifiers. Marian Oprea and Christian Olsson also made it safely through.
The men’s pole vault saw a few more shocks, however, as European silver medallist Maksym Mazuryk of Ukraine failed to make it through to the final. But home favourite Lavillenie made easy work of his 5.65m qualification, along with Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski and Germany’s Molte Mohr.
The only slight surprise in the women’s shot qualification was the below-par throw from Alena Kopets of Belarus, who only managed 17.11m and missed out on a place in the final. Germany’s Christina Schwanitz and Russia’s Anna Avdeyeva hit the standard on their first throws and will battle it out for gold tomorrow.