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World Athletics U20 Championships Nairobi21

Report21 Jul 2019

Kokhan’s hammer feats provide the highlight of European U20 Championships


Myhaylo Kokhan, winner of the hammer at the European U20 Championships in Boras (© Getty Images)

It has taken Myhaylo Kokhan very little time to get to grips with the U20 6kg hammer.

The prodigious Ukrainian won world U18, European U18 and Youth Olympic titles over the past two years with the lighter 5kg implement and last year finished second – at the age of 17 – at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018.

On Friday (21), the second of four days of competition at the European U20 Championships in the Swedish town of Boras, Kokhan propelled his hammer out to the stunning distance of 84.73m at the European U20 Championships.

The statistics tell the story of his outstanding performance.

It was a European U20 record by almost two metres, a championship record by almost three metres and Kokhan moved up to second place on the world U20 all-time list.

Into the bargain, even though he just fell short of the world U20 record of 85.57m set by Qatar’s Ashraf Amgad El-Seify when winning at the 2012 IAAF World U20 Championships, Kokhan produced the best series ever seen in an U20 hammer competition and the contest itself was one of the best ever for depth.

Kokhan started the day on Friday with a best of 81.11m from his only other U20 competition of the year, winning his national U20 title, but opened with a personal best and championship record of 81.94m, then extended both marks with his next throw of 83.47m, which also added 50 centimetres to the decade-old European record of 82.97m held by Spain’s Javier Cienfuegos since 2009. He then unleased his massive winning effort with his third throw.

Any complacency Kokhan might have been feeling would have been jolted out of him when Greece’s world U20 leader Hristos Frantzeskakis banished the memories of recording three no-throws at both the 2017 European U20 Championships and 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships by adding more than two metres to his national U20 record with a huge effort of 84.22m in the fourth round to move up to third on the world U20 all-time list.

However, Kokhan finished with 83.75m, 83.42m and a foul while the talented but erratic Franztzeskakis could only foul twice with his remaining throws which left the former to deservedly take the plaudits.

The question now is when and where will Kokhan attack Ei-Seify’s world record as he rarely competes with the U20 implement.

The obvious answer is next year’s IAAF World U20 Championships as Kokhan only turns 19 in January and Nairobi is certainly a location he enjoys, having won the world U18 title in the Moi Stadium two years ago.

“The competition started with difficulties because of the rain. I felt much better when the sun came out,” commented Kokhan ruefully, the hammer getting underway just after a downpour. However, despite a damp circle there appeared to be little evidence of the aforementioned problems.

In a high-quality competition, Italy’s Giorgio Olivieri took bronze with 78.75m ahead of lifetime bests for Hungary’s Donat Varga and Bulgaria’s Valentin Andreev in fourth and fifth, the pair throwing 78.43m and 77.15m respectively.

Mahuchikh attempts world U20 record

Kokhan was the only athlete to set a championship record in Boras but not the only Ukrainian to go close to a world U20 record, with 17-year-old high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh attempting 2.02m, going close on her third attempt.

Mahuchikh, who will also be eligible to compete in Nairobi next July, soared over six consecutive heights at the first time of asking up to and including 1.92m to clinch the gold medal. But instead of opting for having the bar raised to a championship record height of 1.96m, she decided not to waste any time and tried to improve on Heike Balck’s 30-year-old world U20 record of 2.01m, set by the East German six months before the Berlin Wall fell.

Two senior national records fell in an enthralling heptathlon which saw three women exceed 6000 points.

Maria Vicente, the holder of the world U18 best, won in a Spanish record of 6115 – the first Spaniard to surpass 6000 points – after personal bests on the second day of 44.19m in the javelin and then 2:16.29 in the 800m. Ireland's Kate O'Connor improved her own national record by more than 200 points to 6093, with Switzerland's Annik Kalin placing third with a personal best tally of 6069.

As always, victories by the host nation help elevate the atmosphere of a championship and Sweden got two gold medals from hurdlers Carl Bengtstrom and Tilde Johansson.

Bengtstrom lay second on the European U20 400m hurdles list ahead of Boras but his way to the title was cleared by the disqualification of Great Britain’s list-leading Alastair Chalmers in the semi-finals. The local star, who hails from Gothenburg just 60 kilometres away, fulfilled expectations by romping to victory in the final in 50.32.

Johansson, the Swedish U20 long jump record-holder with her recent 6.73m, treated the 100m hurdles very much as her secondary event in Boras but had a lightening start and produced an exemplary display of hurdling to win in a big personal best of 13.16 on Saturday night.

Family fortunes

On Sunday morning, however, Johansson had to settle for second in the long jump when she was beaten by Italy’s Larisa Iapichino, the Italian reaching 6.58m in the fifth round to win by six centimetres.

Iapichino – the daughter of 1987 European U20 champion and two-time world champion Fiona May – only turned 17 on Thursday and so is one of a handful of gold medallists in Boras who will be still eligible to defend their title in two years’ time when the championships will be in the Estonian capital Tallinn.

Another winning parent-progeny combination was realised when Russia’s Aksana Gataullina, competing as an authorised neutral athlete, won the women’s pole vault 36 years after her father Rodion Gataullin had taken the men’s European U20 title. The former won with 4.36m, two heights better than anyone else.

The medal table was topped by Great Britain who won 15 medals, including six golds (6-3-6), four medals more than second-placed than Italy who had their best championships ever with five gold medals.

Britain’s tally received a considerable boost in the men’s 800m in which they filled all three podium spots. Despite the absence of Max Burgin, the second-fastest European U20 athlete in history who picked up an injury just a couple of weeks ago, the trio of Oliver Dustin, Ben Pattison and Finley McLear sprinted away from the rest of the field on the second lap with Dustin taking the title in 1:50.56.

The haul by the Azzurri included a 100m double on Friday which saw Vittoria Fontana just edge 16-year-old N'ketia Seedo from the Netherlands by 0.006, with both timed at 11.40, while Lorenzo Paissan was a surprise winner of the men's race in 10.44 after Britain’s pre-race favourite Jeremiah Azu pulled up injured while in the lead 20 metres from the line.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF