Christophe Lemaitre takes 100m crown at European Championships in Helsinki as Britain’s Julia Bleasdale almost lands a surprise bronze
Less than three weeks after his 22nd birthday, Christophe Lemaitre of France won his second European title over 100m.
Rain once again threatened to get in the way of the action on the second day of the European Championships in Helsinki, but despite running on a wet track into a -0.7m/s headwind, Lemaitre clocked 10.09 to overhaul team-mate Jimmy Vicaut in the closing stages.
Vicaut, who last year made the World Championships final while still a junior, got out of the blocks best. There had been two false starts before then, leading to the disqualification of Simone Collio as Lithuania’s Rytis Sakalauskas was given a warning.
Sakalauskas once again sat in his blocks when the race got off to a fair start, and Ronalds Arajs’ DNF meant there were only five finishers. But at the front end of the race, Lemaitre was trying to keep his cool as he reeled in his younger compatriot.
Vicaut finished just 0.03 behind Lemaitre, securing the first French 1-2 finish in the event since 1962. Norway’s Jaysuma Saidy Ndure finished third in 10.17, while Britain’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey was fourth (10.31).
The women’s 100m final was even closer as just four hundredths of a second separated the three medallists. Bulgaria’s Ivet Lalova – who suffered a career-threatening injury in 2005 – trailed European indoor champion Olesya Povh in the first half as the Ukrainian got off to her trademark fast start.
But Lalova came back in the final 15 metres to take the victory in 11.28 (-0.7m/s). It was the slowest winning time at the Europeans since 1971, and Lalova had run quicker in the semis (11.23) and heats (11.06), but it was the gold medal that mattered most – Lalova’s first major senior title.
Povh clocked 11.32 in second and Lithuania’s surprise bronze medallist Lina Grincikaite was awarded the same time. Defending champion Verena Sailer of Germany, having dipped under 11.20 in both her heat and semi, wound up sixth in 11.42.
Britain’s Julia Bleasdale almost scored a surprise medal in the women’s 5000m. In a wide open straight final, a lead pack of six or seven athletes were in contention right down to the last few laps. Portugal’s Sara Moreira, the bronze medallist two years ago, was favoured to win and she looked to be on course to do that.
She took up the running on the final lap and found she had Bleasdale for company, with previously unheralded Russian Olga Golovkina and Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Kovalenko close behind. Along the back straight it looked as though Bleasdale would challenge for the lead, but Moreira kicked to maintain pole position.
Coming into the home straight though, both Moreira and Bleasdale faded as Golovkina and Kovalenko came on strong. Golovkina moved into the lead in the final few metres to win in 15:11.70 with Kovalenko catching Moreira on the line to snatch the silver, 15:12.03 to 15:12.05.
Bleasdale set a big PB of 15:12.77 in fourth place to go to 11th on the UK all-time list. It is also comfortably inside the ‘A’ qualifying standard for the Olympics, and she may be given the option of doubling up, having already achieved the ‘A’ standard in the 10,000m.
European indoor champion Helen Clitheroe was 16th, having struggled for form all year. Steph Twell, meanwhile, made a last-minute withdrawal.
It will come as no surprise that the first medal of the championships for hosts Finland came in the javelin, their strongest event. Ari Mannio threw 82.63m to take bronze, although his distance of 84.31m in yesterday’s qualifying round would have been enough to win what turned out to be a low-key affair.
Double Olympic and European champion Andreas Thorkildsen has not been at his best all year and the Norwegian finished fourth with 81.55m, pulling out of the competition at half way. Russia’s Valeriy Iordan surprised in the first round with his 83.23m PB, but world leader Viteszlav Vesely – who overcame a scare in qualifying to just make it into the final – unleashed a throw of 83.72m in the second round to take the lead.
It remained the leading mark of the final and the Czech athlete took gold with the shortest winning throw since the new implement came into force.
Having been on course for gold since the outset, Germany’s Pascal Behrenbruch maintained his all-round supremacy through to the end of the decathlon. He was close to his lifetime bests in the 110m hurdles (14.16), discus (48.24m) and javelin (67.45m), while he set a PB of 5.00m in the pole vault. By the time of the 1500m, which he ran in 4:34.02, his victory was almost assured and his ended up scoring a decathlon PB of 8558 – the best winning mark at the championships for 10 years.
Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov, having been in pole position until the final few events, held on for the silver medal with 8321, while Russia’s Ilya Shkurenyov took bronze with a PB of 8219. Two-time former champion Roman Sebrle, now 37, scored 8052 to finish sixth – 14 years after he made his first appearance at the European Championships, also finishing sixth on that occasion. Britain’s Ashley Bryant scored 7668 to finish 12th.
Spanish high jumper Ruth Beitia is known for her consistency indoors, having won six medals at major indoor championships between 2004 and 2011. When it comes to outdoor senior championships, the 33-year-old had never before won a medal – until today when she finally struck gold, a first for Spain in this event at the Europeans.
She did not have it easy though, and Norway’s Tonje Angelsen was the surprise package of the competition, if not of the whole championships so far. The 22-year-old equalled her 1.95m at the first time of asking as Beitia also sailed clear of that height.
The bar moved to 1.97m and Angelsen cleared it on her third attempt to take the lead with a lifetime best. But Beitia then went over it on her third attempt. Both athletes failed at 1.99m, and had it not been for Angelsen’s sole failure at 1.89m, there would have been a jump-off for the gold medal. As it was, Beitia was crowned the champion with the lowest winning height since 1974.
The women’s long jump final was lacking in big names and big marks as Eloyse Lesueur took goldwith 6.81m, the shortest winning mark since 1982. The Frenchwoman produced her best leap of the day in the first round, and at halfway she led by 21cm from 2009 world bronze medallist Karen Melis Mey of Turkey.
But the competition came to life in the penultimate round and within the space of a few jumps, Mey found herself outside the medals having been bumped down by Olga Sudarava of Belarus (6.74m) and Margrethe Renstrom of Norway (6.67m). Germany’s Sosthene Moguenara also jumped ahead of Mey in the final round with her 6.66m – an agonising one centimetre shy of a medal.
Elsewhere today, British duo Nathan Woodward and Rhys Williams made it through to the 400m hurdles final, while Lynsey Sharp and Jemma Simpson did likewise in the women’s 800m as Jenny Meadows was a late withdrawal.
Former European bronze medallist Lee McConnell produced a season’s best of 51.98 to progress to the 400m final as third-fastest behind Russia’s Kseniya Zadorina (51.35). Richard Buck made it into the final of the men’s event as the eight-fastest qualifier from the semi-finals, half a second behind Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic.
But Gareth Warburton and Mukhtar Mohammed were not so fortunate in the men’s 800m. Seemingly more focused on running an Olympic ‘A’ standard, they both finished outside the top two in their respective semi-finals, running 1:47.37 and 1:48.84 respectively.
A handful of Britain’s other field eventers – Sally Peake in the pole vault, Larry Achike in the triple jump, Eden Francis in the shot and Mark Dry in the hammer – all missed out on making the final in their events.