Report04 Mar 2023

Bol and Warholm claim European indoor 400m crowns in Istanbul


Femke Bol wins the European indoor 400m title in Istanbul (© Getty Images)

With two very differing styles, but equally outrageous ability, Karsten Warholm and Femke Bol lit up the third night of action at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul on Saturday (4), sizzling to the 400m titles in respective times of 45.35 and 49.85.  

Warholm was the first of the two headline stars to settle into his blocks and the 400m hurdles world record-holder unleashed a fast, furious first lap, ripping through the opening 200m with reckless abandon in 20.84 – which he later described as “stupid fast”. But was there method in the madness?

It left him in what was essentially a different province to his rivals, and the 2019 champion hit 300m in a blazing 32.32 before the full weight of his first lap came crashing down upon him. Down the home straight, Warholm tied up, but this is an athlete who knows all about toughing it out, and that’s exactly what he did, hitting the line an exhausted, elated champion in 45.35. 

“It just hit me like a wall,” he said. “With this, you never know what is going to come. I was just fighting my ass off to save myself and I am very happy it was gold today.” With another European title in the bag, Warholm said he is “very much looking forward” to the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23, saying he has “some things to defend there.”

Belgium’s Julien Watrin closed fast to set a national record of 45.44 and win silver, while Sweden’s Carl Bengstrom took bronze in 45.77. 

Karsten Warholm pips Julien Watrin to the European indoor 400m title in Istanbul

Karsten Warholm pips Julien Watrin to the European indoor 400m title in Istanbul (© Getty Images)

Ten minutes after Warholm’s exquisite exposition of two-lap running, Bol went to the line for the women’s 400m as one of the most overwhelming favourites of the championships, given her recent world indoor record of 49.26. With training partner Lieke Klaver to chase in the outside lane, the Dutch star powered through the opening lap in 23.78, and edged past Klaver approaching the third turn. 

While Warholm likes to inflict his damage over the opening 200m, Bol’s trademark is tearing her rivals to shreds over the latter half. That was again the case here, the defending champion opening broad daylight between her and her rivals down the back straight and looking magnificently majestic as she strode to the finish in 49.85, with Klaver winning silver in 50.57 and Poland’s Anna Kielbasinska taking bronze in 51.25. 

“Coming to Istanbul with a world record, I could feel that everybody wanted me to go even faster, and expected that I could,” said Bol. “Unfortunately, it is harder than it might look. I have multiple European titles, but the world title is still missing. The world record is step one.”

In the men’s 60m, Italy’s Samuele Ceccarelli did exactly what he’d done two weeks ago to Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs at their national indoor championships, upsetting him to claim gold. But this time he did it on a far bigger stage, with the weight of expectation hanging over him following a 6.47-second clocking to win his semifinal. 

In the final, the 23-year-old clocked 6.48 to edge his compatriot to gold, with Jacobs finishing second in 6.50, a season’s best for the 28-year-old. Sweden’s Henrik Larsson clocked a national record of 6.53 to win bronze, one thousandth of a second ahead of Poland’s Dominik Kopec.

The victory marks a huge step forward for Ceccarelli, who had a best of 6.72 for 60m before this season, which dated back to 2019. After years of injury issues, he found consistency through the winter and enjoyed a breakthrough indoor campaign, hacking his PB down three times before coming to Istanbul. 

“To become European champion, I am over the moon because it is the first time in the Italian senior team, my first time competing at such championships, and the first win,” he said. “We keep the gold medal at home in Italy so (Jacobs) was happy for me. He is like my big brother.” Jacobs noted he had struggled with a hamstring issue during the championships and that it was “really tough” to compete with it.

Athletes fight for the line in the men's European indoor 60m final, won by Samuele Ceccarelli

Athletes fight for the line in the men's European indoor 60m final, won by Samuele Ceccarelli (© Getty Images)

In the women’s 1500m, Laura Muir did what just about everyone expected – winning with a typically tough, classy display, clocking 4:03.40 ahead of Romania’s Claudia Mihaela Bobocea (4:03.76), Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui (4:04.06) and Spain’s Esther Guerrero (4:04.86).

The three behind Muir all set indoor personal bests, and that was chiefly thanks to the relentless pace laid down by Bobocea, who led through 400m in 64.42, 800m in 2:10.87 and 1200m in 3:16.47. Muir started near the back, staying out of trouble, but slowly stalked her way to the front by the penultimate lap. With 250 metres to run, she finally pulled the trigger, blasting away from her rivals. 

“I put quite some pressure on myself to win another gold, so I am very happy,” said Muir. “Ten years ago, as a junior, I finished last in the final. It is kind of crazy how my career has changed, but I just hope that I can be an example to other athletes. You do not have to be the best in the world when you are a junior, but you just see whatever stage you are at: You can do it.”

The women’s triple jump saw an emotional home win for Turkey’s Tugba Danismaz, who set a national record of 14.31m to ignite a rapturous reception from the home crowd. Olympic champion Patricia Mamona of Portugal could only manage a best of 14.16m, good enough for bronze, with silver going to Italy’s Dariya Derkach with 14.20m. 

“We are going through a very tough time and if people are happy because of my medal and they are healing their wounds because of the medals, that makes me very happy and proud,” said Danismaz, referring to last month’s earthquake near the Turkish-Syrian border that left more than 45,000 people dead. “I am so happy that I am not alone in this – I have so many foreign friends who sent me messages and supported me. The spectators were so great today and if I make them smile, that is very good.”

Turkey's European indoor triple jump winner Tugba Danismaz in Istanbul

Turkey's European indoor triple jump winner Tugba Danismaz in Istanbul (© Getty Images)

In the women’s pole vault, Wilma Murto soared over a superb national record of 4.80m, a height only she could clear, making her the first Finnish woman in history to win gold at the championships, adding to her European outdoor title last year. Silver went to Slovenia’s Tina Sutej with 4.75m, while bronze went to Czech Republic’s Amalie Svabikova, who cleared 4.70m. Greece’s Katerina Stefanidi finished fourth with a best of 4.60m.

“I was very happy with my jumps today and I also went for bigger poles I have never used before so that was a big thing for me,” said Murto. “I felt very good coming into this and the qualification yesterday gave me a lot of confidence.”

In the heptathlon, Kevin Mayer is well on his way to gold after a dominant first day, the world decathlon record-holder equalling his PB in the 60m with 6.85, jumping a season’s best of 7.41m in the long jump and throwing 15.81m in the shot put before clearing 2.01m in the high jump. That leaves him sitting on 3474 points overnight, and while his European record of 6479 no longer looks on the cards, it will take something substantial on Sunday to prevent him claiming his third European indoor title. 

“Honestly, my shape was good yesterday but I slept just like one hour so I am so tired today, have no juice, but I had to deal with it,” he said. “I had some good results so it was not bad but honestly, it is hard to take pleasure under this condition because I am not 100% ready.”

His chief rival in Istanbul was expected to be Simon Ehammer of Switzerland, but Ehammer bowed out of the competition after fouling three times in the long jump on Saturday morning, having started his day with a 6.80 clocking in the 60m. 

Sitting atop the standings overnight is Norway’s Sander Skotheim, who unleashed a championship best in the high jump of 2.19m to sit on 3541 points overnight, a silver medal now firmly within his grasp. France’s Makenson Gletty (3368), Spain’s Jorge Urena (3287) and Estonia’s Hans-Christian Hausenberg (3409) appear most likely to fight it out for bronze on day two.

Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics