Williams and Grabarz win European crowns

Three more medals for Britain on day three in Helsinki

Rhys Williams (Mark Shearman)

Rhys Williams and Robbie Grabarz brought Britain’s gold medal tally to three, while Lynsey Sharp claimed a silver on a great day of action in Finland.

With two days remaining in Helsinki, GB lie fourth on the medals table behind Russia, Germany and France, boosted by the gold medal from Mo Farah in the 5000m on Wednesday.

Having finished third in these championships in 2006 and second in 2010, Williams won the medal he wanted most and looks to have secured Olympic selection.

As he used his trademark fast finish, the result looked beyond doubt as soon as he came off the final hurdle and he beat Serbia’s Emir Bekric into second by 0.16 seconds. Ukraine’s Stanislav Melnykov was third with 49.69.

Both he and fellow British finalist Nathan Woodward, following disappointments at the trials, were vying to secure the remaining London place alongside automatic qualifiers Dai Greene and Jack Green. Williams, who fell in the Trials final, gained his second ‘A’ standard of the season here. On the other hand, Woodward, who faltered in the home straight while challenging Dai Greene at the Trials and finished third, was seventh here in 50.20.

Grabarz honed his preparations for the Olympics and underlined his consistency by taking his first major title.

The winning height of 2.31m was matched by the best of Lithuania’s Raivydas Stanys, but the Brit took it by virtue of fewer fouls. Entering the competition at 2.24m, Grabarz cleared that and 2.28m at his first attempts. He needed two jumps at 2.31m but, even though Stanys recorded a PB with his second leap at that height, the pressure was on him to go higher as he had already had four failures.

Grabarz, who is equal second on the world rankings this year with his PB of 2.36m, took three attempts at 2.33m but Stanys could go no higher either.

Earlier, Britain’s Samson Oni continued his disappointing season by failing to clear his opening height of 2.20m.

In the 800m, UK champion Sharp came away with a silver medal from a sensational race, moving from seventh and 12m down on a medal spot with 100m to go.

Russians Yelena Arzhakova and Marina Maracheva and Belarus’s Maryna Arzamasva were grouped well out in front off the final bend. However, while Arzhakova stretched away for victory in 1:58.51, all the drama was going on behind her.

A tired Arzamasva lost her legs 20 metres from the line while battling for the medals with Maracheva. But while the rest of the field was slowing drastically after a 57.29-second opening lap, Sharp – who had stayed well off the pace – came from nowhere to overtake both.

Sharp’s PB time of 2:00.52, which would have been quicker had she not had to run wide on the last bend, still leaves the British selection in doubt as she does not have the ‘A’ standard.

Fellow Brit Jemma Simpson, who also still needs the ‘A’, was seventh in 2:02.14, having gone through the bell in fourth.

The top performance in the field came from Ukraine’s Olga Saladukha whose 14.99m was the best in the world in 2012. The world champion defended her title in style, following up her eventual best effort in round one with two further jumps over 14.80m. Portugal’s Patricia Mamona (14.52m) and Russia’s Yana Borodina (14.36m) took the minor medals.

Ukraine’s Vira Rebryk caused a minor upset in the javelin to defeat Olympic bronze medallist Christina Obergfoll of Germany.

Rebryk, a European and world junior champion in successive years in 2007 and 2008, added 33cm to the national record she set last month. Obergfoll had led with her opener of 65.01m, which remained her best.

Britain’s Goldie Sayers produced a solid 63.01m, but with Germany’s Linda Stahl recording 63.69m, it was not enough for a medal and she finished fourth – just as she did at the 2008 Olympics.

Russia’s Irina Davydova, the find of the season in the 400m hurdles, set a world-leading time of 53.77 to take her first major title.

Davydova, who came into the season with a best of 55.48 and ran 53.87 in May, was well clear of Czech Denisa Rosolova, who was second in 54.24. Ukraine’s Anna Yaroshchuk was third in 54.35.

Despite not having broken 1:46 this season, 2004 Olympic 800m champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy showed at the age of 31 that he can still win titles.

The Russian typically sat back off the slow opening-lap pace of 55.1 and won the sprint in the home straight, stopping the clock on 1:48.61. Denmark’s fast-finishing Andreas Bube was eight hundredths adrift, while France’s Pierre Bosse was third.

In the steeplechase, Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad took advantage of a fall by Victor Garcia at the final barrier to come home a winner.

As 2008 Olympic silver medallist and last year’s world bronze medallist, the Frenchman was the favourite and after a pedestrian opening 2km, was neck and neck with Garcia in the home straight on the final lap.

However, the Spaniard stumbled over the barrier and, despite getting back to his feet, finished third, also behind Turkey’s Kenyan-born Tarik Agdad. The winning time was just 8:33.23 after they went through 2km in 5:57.

Germany’s Nadine Kleinert, who has won silver medals at one Olympics, three World Championships, one World Indoor Championships and one European Indoor Championships, finally took gold, controlling the final and then recording a best of 19.18m in round four.

David Storl made it a shot put double for Germany as he added the European honour to the world title he gained last year. His winning throw of 21.55m is his second best-ever outdoors behind his Daegu performance and put him more than a metre clear of the field.

Sweden’s Moa Hjelmer broke her own national record with a time of 51.13 in the 400m, just managing to hold off Russia’s Kenya Zadorina (51.26). In third was Belarus’s Ilona Usovich in 51.94. Britain’s Lee McConnell was fifth with 52.20, having to run blind in lane eight and after setting a season’s best of 51.98 in her semi-final.

The men’s 400m was won by comfortably by Czech Republic’s Pavel Maslak in 45.24, while Richard Buck further staked his claim for a place on Britain’s 4x400m relay squad for London with 45.92 for fifth.

Britain’s Abi Oyepitan failed to make the final of the 200m by just one hundredth of a second. After looking good in winning her heat in the morning in 23.05 – her second ‘A’ standard of the season – she was just fourth in the semi-final in 23.22.

However, both British men made the final of the 200m. Chris Clarke, better known for his exploits over 400m, clocked 20.90 for second in his semi, while Daniel Talbot won his race to also gain automatic qualification.

At the start of the day UK discus record-holder Lawrence Okoye qualified comfortably for the final with 64.86m. However, his team-mates Brett Morse and Abdul Buhari failed to progress with 58.71m and 58.57m respectively – well short of the Olympic ‘A’ they are still short of in 2012.

Another British record-holder to go through to the final was Sophie Hitchon, although the hammer thrower just scraped in with 67.08m on her last attempt, following a 61m throw and a foul. However, Britain’s Sarah Holt missed out on the final, recording a best of just 61.18m.

In the long jump, joint UK record-holder Chris Tomlinson’s indifferent form continued as he failed to qualify for the final with 7.84m. However, compatriot JJ Jegede edged closer to the ‘A’ standard of 8.10m with a season’s best of 8.01m to make the final.

3 Responses to “Williams and Grabarz win European crowns”

  1. Frank Messina says:

    Excellent day. Happy to see Rhys Williams complete his set of medals. Great Grabarz with the second gold for the UK 72 years after the first in the high jump. Stunning Lynsey Sharp with her home straight à la Williams!

  2. Kevin O'Neill says:

    A good day, on the whole, especially for the two gold medallists. As a Welshman I was thrilled that Rhys seems to have come good. Shame that Lynsey wasn't quite fast enough. She demonstrated how to win an 800 (as Kelly Holmes knew so well), by judging the pace properly, unlike the unfortunate Marylin Okoro. The selectors still have some problems but some issues have been resolved.

  3. alex_800 says:

    It will be interesting to see if the selectors decide to pass up Lynsey Sharp for OG selection, notwithstanding the fact that she is probably Britain's best prospect in London as she has twice proven heself to be a great COMPETITOR in the last two weeks. That is, unless Jenny Meadows shows any form soon, but even so will she be able to handle three rounds?

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