Race walker Elmira Alembekova grabbed sole gold on offer on morning of day three at European Championships, as GB’s sprinters shone in 200m heats
Dina Asher-Smith and Adam Gemili were among the 200m heat winners on Thursday morning and they will be joined by their four GB team-mates in the semi finals.
Winning the fifth and final heat on the third morning of European Championships action in Zurich, 18-year-old Asher-Smith, fresh from world junior 100m gold, cruised over the line in 22.75 for a time just one hundredth of a second off her lifetime best. The young talent, who also received her A Level results that same morning and will now go to King’s College in London to read history, continues to threaten Kathy Cooks UK junior record of 22.70 from 1979.
She was the second quickest of the heats, newly-crowned European 100m champion Dafne Schippers – who is focusing on the sprints in Zurich rather than the heptathlon – running 22.73 to win heat three. They will be joined in Thursday evening’s semi finals by the likes of Asher-Smith’s fellow British sprinters Jodie Williams and her namesake Bianca Williams, the pair running times of 22.88 and 23.38 to win their respective heats.
Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji continued her record-breaking ways in front of the home crowd and after setting two national 100m records over the past couple of days she ran a Swiss under-23 record of 23.05 for double the distance.
Not to be outdone, GB’s male 200m sprinters all also made it safely through to Thursday night’s semi finals, sub-20 second man Gemili going fastest in the first round with 20.39. Danny Talbot also won his heat with 20.63 as James Ellington finished behind Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre in heat two – 20.43 to 20.55. In heat four there was a big PB for Italy’s Eseosa Desalu who ran 20.55 behind winner Gemili.
Despite Russia’s women’s 20km race walk favourite Anisya Kirdyapkina having been forced to miss the event through illness, the title remained with the nation as Elmira Alembekova was victorious, finishing 11 seconds clear of Ukraine’s European under-23 silver medallist Lyudmila Olyanoska – 1:27:56 to 1:28:07. Behind them, 19-year-old Anežka Drahotová of Czech Republic – who had won the world junior 10,000 m walk title just three weeks before and is also an international cyclist and steeplechaser – clocked 1:28:08 for bronze and a national junior record.
“Two kilometres before the finish, I felt that the pace had slowed down a bit so it was the right moment to speed up and attack the front position,” explained Alembekova, who claimed the only gold on offer in Wednesday’s morning session in Zurich. “I had enough strength to accelerate and when I saw Drahotová 70 metres behind me, it gave me some confidence and I was almost sure I would win. It is a very important victory and my fist big medal among adults.”
Over in the field and newly-crowned Commonwealth champion Steve Lewis made it through to the pole vault final along with the likes of world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie of France, though Lewis’ GB team-mate Luke Cutts was some way of his best and didn’t do enough to progress. World champion Pawel Fajdek of Poland threw the implement the furthest in hammer qualifying, his 77.45m easily beating the automatic qualifying mark of 75.00m. Hungary’s Olympic champion Krisztián Pars couldn’t meet the automatic qualifier but his best of 74.44m was enough to see him through to continue the defence of his European title.
France’s Antoinette Nana Djimou got the defence of her heptathlon title off to a strong start as she clocked 13.05 in the 100m hurdles for 1117 points to lead after one event, while Ukraine’s Anastasiya Mokhnyuk took the final heat in a 13.08 PB and heptathlon favourite Nadine Broersen of the Netherlands finished behind her in fourth with 13.48.
But with a national record clearance of 1.94m in the high jump, the Dutchwoman propelled herself to top of the standings with a total of 2211 points. That wasn’t the best of the jumps, though, as Belgium’s 19-year-old Nafissatou Thiam, the European junior champion, cleared 1.97m to equal the best-ever height recorded in the event as part of a heptathlon competition and sit behind Broersen with 2169 points after two events.
» Results can be found here