Russian takes 60m hurdles crown in a world lead as one of a quartet of champions on day one
Four champions were crowned on the opening day of the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg, but there was disappointment in qualification for two British medal contenders Dwain Chambers and Michael Rimmer.
Nevertheless, Brits who did qualify included Holly Bleasdale, Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz and world indoor champion Yamile Aldama.
The relatively unheralded Nevin Yanit added to her considerable list of honours in taking the women’s 60m hurdles, slicing 0.09 off her Turkish record with 7.89 – a European lead.
Despite not having reached a major global final until she was fifth in London 2012, Yanit has won the last two European outdoor titles, the 2009 World Student Games crown and 2007 European Under-23 gold.
Ireland’s 2006 world indoor champion Derval O’Rourke was fourth with a season’s best 7.95.
In the men’s event, Russia Segrey Shubenkov set a world lead of 7.49. The 13.09 110m hurdler had to finish strongly to pass the fast-starting Italian Paolo Dal Molin, who improved by eight hundredths on his pre-championship best with 7.51 for silver. In fact, the first six set PBs.
Serbian shot-putter Asmir Kolasinac became the first winner of the weekend. Despite a miserable past record in indoor major championships, the 28-year-old European outdoor bronze medallist took victory by 28cm with 20.62m. Another three centimetres would have been the icing on the cake though – the athlete who went out in qualifying in the 2010 and 2012 World Indoors and 2011 European Indoors shares the national indoor record of 20.64m with two other men.
France’s Ida Nana Djimou successfully defended her pentathlon title despite a valiant 800m from Russia’s Yelena Maksimava bringing her to within eight points. The winning score was 4666.
Mixed results in qualification for Brits
Rimmer had gone into the heats as the European No.1 after his 1:46.55 to beat a top field at the British Athletics Grand Prix in Birmingham. However, despite a slow opening 400m of outside 56 seconds, he stayed on the shoulder of the leader and ran wide for a great deal of the race. He was passed at the end and didn’t have the finish to pull through from third place, running only 1:51.04.
Rimmer, who had planned to do the European Indoors before surprising himself in Birmingham, said: “I think the one way I was going to get caught out was if there was a slow first lap. I’ve been in a totally different phase of training to most people, I think.
“Things are going well. I’m stronger than that, but it’s a different kettle of fish when it’s slow and tactical. There’s not much I can take from it but I’ll go back to what I was doing beforehand.”
His fellow British 800m runners had no such problems in going through. Mukhtar Mohammed won a slightly messy opening heat in 1:49.43, while Joe Thomas looked good in finishing strongly to take his more tactical heat with 1:51.11.
As European No.2, Mohammed will go into the semi-finals as the quickest in 2013, but the favourite looks to be Poland’s defending champion Adam Kszczot.
Former European and world indoor champion Dwain Chambers was clearly short of form after his recent back injury. The 34-year-old was more than a quarter of a second outside his European record as he clocked 6.78 for only fifth in his heat.
France’s Jimmy Vicaut was quickest to progress to tomorrow’s semi-finals, running 6.55 – four hundredths quicker than Italy’s Michel Tumi. British champion James Dasaolu was next quickest with 6.62, while compatriot Harry Aikines-Aryeetey set a season’s best of 6.65 to progress too.
Grabarz, one of the favourites in the high jump, survived a scare despite failing to clear 2.28m, which was achieved by five athletes. The automatic qualification was 2.31m but eventually the best nine jumpers were taken through to the final and the Brit was one of these by virtue of his clean record up to 2.23m.
Another of Britain’s best medal hopes, Holly Bleasdale, gained the automatic qualification in her event, becoming one of four to do so as cleared 4.56m on the first attempt.
She said: “I felt really good going into the competition, but there were 20 girls warming up at the same time which was really tough. I didn’t have the smoothest warm-up which was difficult and I failed my first height, which was a bit nerve-wracking, then I had another 45-minute wait.
“But I felt pretty good out there and was really confident. Clearing 4.46m and 4.56m first-time is a really big confidence-boost and to finish second in qualifying, I can’t ask for much more than that really.”
Yamile Aldama has not been on her best form this year as she struggled back to her peak after injury last year, but her 13.92m season’s best in qualifying confirmed she is nevertheless a medal contender.
Though a surprise world indoor champion last year, the Londoner would this time need to pull off a bigger shock to beat Ukraine’s Olha Saluduha, who was the best from the qualification with 14.47m.
Laura Muir had to sprint past the world indoor record-holder in the closing stages to come through her as an automatic qualifier in a 1500m.
Muir, the UK champion finished second in a personal best of 4:12.36. It should be added that the Russian that she pipped into third, Yelena Soboleva has not been quite the same athlete since returning from a drug ban in 2011. She ran 3:58.05 for 1500m indoors in 2008 – the year of her world indoor “win” that was later annulled to a doping violation.
Defending 800m champion Jenny Meadows knows all about dopers stealing the limelight. She was second behind Yevgeniya Zinurova two years ago in Paris but the Russian was later retroactively disqualified for doping reasons. Driven on by such injustice, she is trying to get back to top form after injury last year and, third in a tough heat in 2:02.88, made it through to the semi-final automatically.
Meanwhile, back in the 1500m, Abeba Aregawi confirmed her status as a big favourite, much to the delight of the home fans. The Ethiopian-born athlete, who has long lived in the Scandinavian country was making her championship debut in a yellow vest and strolled around to win in 4:11.38.