Jo Pavey on her way to winning the European 10,000m title in Zurich (© Getty Images)
With her convincing victory in the 10,000m, Jo Pavey became the oldest woman to ever win a European crown, while David Storl continued his steady rise into the ranks of the all-time great shot putters to highlight the opening day of the European Championships in Zurich on Tuesday (12).
Just two weeks after capturing Commonwealth 5000m bronze – and less than a year after giving birth to her second child – Pavey, at age 40, finally won her first major senior title.
“I really can't believe it,” said Pavey, who took silver in the event at these championships two years ago. “I just kept relaxed and went for it.”
Running cautiously in the middle of the lead pack throughout much of the race, the Briton steadily moved up through the field over the final four laps before taking the lead from Frenchwoman Clemence Calvin as the bell lap sounded. While Pavey upped the tempo dramatically, she couldn’t shake Calvin, who is 17 years her junior, until the pair reached the top of the home straight.
Pavey pulled away to cross the finish in 32:22.39, more than a second clear of Calvin (32:23.58) who was making her senior debut at a major championships. It was the slowest winning time ever, but that mattered little to Pavey.
“I tried to run a controlled last lap and I gave it my all so I had no regrets,” Pavey said. “It's quite funny to think that I've been trying for the gold medal for all of these years and to get it now at 40 is weird.”
But she’s not finished yet. She’ll be returning to action in the 5000m final on Saturday.
Laila Traby, another Frenchwoman, took the bronze, her 32:26.03 run a career best.
While Pavey’s was a victory for the experienced generation, Storl’s was another for the sport’s youngest.
The German, who became the youngest ever world champion in the event in 2011, dominated the competition on this cool summer evening, leading from his first-round 21.41m heave. That would be one of just three measured efforts, but more than enough to suffice in a modest competition in which no others were able to threaten the 21-metre line.
“The first attempt was really good for a start, to get into the competition and for a win. But then I lost my line and tried to attack by force,” said Storl, who became the fifth man to successfully defend a European title in the event.
“But that's when it got difficult. I lost my line completely and I am very upset about this and angry with myself. But of course I achieved my main aim which was to defend my title.”
Two years ago in Helsinki, the young German threw 21.58m to claim the title, five weeks before taking silver at the Olympic Games in London. Last year Storl retained his world title in Moscow.
Spaniard Borja Vivas took the silver with a 20.86m best, edging reigning Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland by just three centimetres. Borja’s was Spain’s first European Championships medal of any colour in the event.
Kazmirek the overnight decathlon leader
Germany’s Kai Kazmirek, the European under-23 champion, led the tables in two events and finished second in two others to cobble together 4492 points and a 129-point lead in the decathlon after day one.
A strong first-day performer, Kazmirek clocked 10.75 in the 100m and took the lead after a 7.68m in the long jump. He dropped to second after a modest shot put, but retook the lead after a 47.34 victory in the 400m.
Thanks to a 2.22m personal best and equal championships best performance in the high jump, Andrei Krauchanka ended the day in second with 4363 points. German Arthur Abele is currently third with 4310, 182 points behind his team-mate.
But the big danger tomorrow will be France’s Kevin Mayer, who has exceeded expectations in almost every event. He is currently sitting in sixth place after the first day, but all of his second-day events – particularly the last three – are very strong and tomorrow he will be challenging for the medals, if not the overall title.
The rest of the day consisted of opening and qualifying rounds, providing many glimpses of what’s to come over the course of the next five days.
The opening round of the women’s 1500m set the stage for one of the more eagerly anticipated clashes of these championships after world champion Abeba Aregawi of Sweden and Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, the world leader, cruised to comfortable victories in their respective heats.
Aregawi won the first in 4:11.64, ahead of Serb Amela Terzic and Russian Svetlana Karamasheva while Hassan took the second, a faster and closer race, in 4:09.55, just ahead of Pole Renata Plis and Italy’s Federica del Buono. The most notable casualty was Scottish record-holder Laura Muir, who was a distant sixth in the first and slower heat. The final is on Friday night.
The opening rounds of both 100m contests largely went according to script with the French sprinting corps commanding the most attention. In the men’s, Jimmy Vicaut (10.06) and Christophe Lemaitre (10.16) led all qualifiers, with Britons Dwain Chambers, Harry Aikines-Ayeetey and James Dasaolu rounding out the rest who ran faster than 10.20.
French champion Myriam Soumare commanded the spotlight in the women’s opening round after her swift 11.03 dash into a slight headwind to equal the European-leading performance she shares with Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers.
The latter looked confident as well as she kicked out the cobwebs with an 11.10 win in her heat, despite a slightly sluggish start.
Defending champion Ivet Lalova was another heat winner and the morning’s third quickest with 11.17 but the crowd favourite performance award went to heat-one winner Mujinga Kambundji, who broke the Swiss record with an 11.32 dash.
The champions in both the men’s and women’s 100m will be crowned on Wednesday.
There were no surprises or major casualties in the men’s 400m opening round, where Russian Maksim Dyldin’s 45.45 season’s best was the fastest of the afternoon. It was a similar story in the women’s event where Olha Zemlyak of Ukraine (51.16) and world champion Christine Ohuruogu (51.40) of Great Britain led the round.
There were two rounds in the women’s 100m hurdles, with both producing nearly identical results.
Frenchwoman Cindy Billaud got things rolling with a 12.75 in the early afternoon’s opening round, only to be bettered by Tiffany Porter’s 12.69 performance a few minutes later. In the evening’s semis, Billaud was an easy winner in 12.79, with Porter answering the challenge with a 12.63 season’s best in semi two, setting the stage for another potential thriller.
No surprises emerged in the opening round of the men’s 400m hurdles where Russian Denis Kudryavtsev, the heat-one winner in 49.05, was the fastest on the day.
So too with the men’s 800m, where no major casualties were reported ahead of Wednesday evening’s semi-finals.
Poles Krystian Zalewski (8:35.44) and Mateusz Demczyszak (8:31.62) were the heat winners in a pair of tactical 3000m steeplechase contests, where all favourites, including two-time defending champion Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France, breezed through to Thursday’s final.
The undisputed highlight in field-event qualifying came in the men’s discus throw where Germany’s Robert Harting wasted little time to show he arrived well prepared to retain his title.
The reigning Olympic and three-time world champion unleashed a 67.01m effort to lead the qualifying round, more than two metres better than the rest, with the exception of Gerd Kanter, who threw 65.79m.
Most notable among those who won’t compete in Wednesday’s final is 2006 champion Virgilijus Alekna, who at 42 was competing in a record-equalling sixth European Championships. Lithuania’s twice Olympic and twice world champion reached just 59.35m to finish a distant 21st.
In the women’s javelin throw, Slovenian record-holder Martina Ratej led all qualifiers with a 61.87m effort, one of just three athletes who managed to breach the 60-metre line. That trio didn't include world record-holder and Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova who is still chasing her first continental title. But the Czech advanced easily anyway with a 59.99m throw, well clear of the 57.50m automatic qualifying distance.
In the pole vault, 13 women topped 4.45m to advance to Thursday evening’s final. German Carolin Hingst and defending champion Jirina Svoboda of the Czech Republic were the only two to advance without a miss.
Russia’s world indoor champion Lyukman Adams led all qualifiers in the men’s triple jump with a 16.97m leap while Eloyse Lesueur (6.72m) of France and Germany’s Malaika Mihambo (6.70m) led the field in the women’s long jump.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF