Yelena Lashmanova en route to a World junior record in the 10,000m Race Walk (© Mark Shearman)
Tallinn, EstoniaA world junior record* in the 10,000m Race Walk by Russia’s Yelena Lashmanova, a European junior record in the women’s 4x100m Relay by Germany and another eight championship records were among the highlights of the 21st European Athletics Junior Championships which finished on Sunday (24).
Among those other eight records was a fabulous 4.57m clearance in the women’s Pole Vault by Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson, the best ever height cleared outdoors by a junior woman in the event.
Lash-ing her rivals into submission
Lashmanova was in action in the very first event of the championships last Thursday (21) and, despite the thermometer already reading 30 degrees, she got proceedings off to a fine start when she went around 25 laps of the track in 42:59.48* to take nearly 12 seconds off the ratified World junior record that had belonged to another Russian, Vera Sokolova, since the 2005 Championships.
She pushed hard from the start and was out on her own after 4000 metres, lapping all her opponents at least once, before coming home nearly two minutes ahead of her compatriot Svetlana Vasileva, who had tried to hang on to her in the early stages of the race.
“I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the numbers on the board. It was really hard to perform in such weather conditions but Russia won all the medals and we are really happy with our results. This was the most important race of the year for us, so we achieved the goal,” said the delighted Lashmanova.
With a neat bit of symmetry among the last events on the track was the women’s 4x100m and even though Germany only had one girl in the individual 100m final, outstanding baton changing and some fast footwork brought the quartet of Alexandra Burkhardt, Katherina Grompe, Tatjana Lofamakanda Pinto and Anna-Lena Freese home in 43.42.
It crossed plenty of people’s minds that the previous best 43.48 was set by a squad from the former GDR and the four girls in action on Sunday were not born when it was set or will have any memory of what Germany in two halves was like.
Williams and Bengtsson provide a prelude for Barcelona
Another long lasting standard from East German sprinters was also consigned to history when Great Britain’s prodigious Jodie Williams sped to a championships record of 11.18 to win the 100m and add a continental title to the ones she has acquired over the distance at the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships and 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships.
It was the fastest time by a European junior for eight years and for good measure, she also added the 200m title in 22.94 and might have had a chance to add another championships record - which has belonged the East Germany’s Bärbel Eckhart since 1973 – had she not had a 1.5 metres-per-second breeze in her face.
Like Williams, the talent of Angelica Bengtsson has been known since she came to the fore at the World Youth Championships in Bressanone/Brixen two years ago and her upward trajectory continued when she improved on Yelena Isinbayenva’s former championships record of 4.40m three times.
With the competition won when she was the only woman over 4.30m, she went over 4.42m with her third attempt then flew over 4.52m at the second time of asking before skimming clear at 4.57m, the best ever outdoor mark by a junior, on her final attempt.
Bengtsson only came down to earth when she had three failures at a new world junior record of 4.64m, which would have been a one centimetre improvement on her own record which was set indoors this winter.
“Am I going to be the next Yelena Isinbayeva? Well, I sure hope so. I hope to jump at least as high as she has done but my goal is to break all her records. I am really content with the result because I have tried to set a new national outdoor record for a long time now and finally I have succeeded. I don't have any problems with motivating myself but I could use some good competition,” reflected Bengtsson, who will get the opposition she desires at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Stockholm on Friday (29).
It’s also worth remembering that Williams and Bengtsson are still young enough to compete at next year’s World Junior Championships in Barcelona.
No surprise finally for Sirmais
There were expectations that Latvian javelin thrower Zigismunds Sirmais might also conjure up something special after his two World junior records earlier this summer but he had to settle for ‘only’ a championships record of 81.53m.
He was surprisingly in second place for the majority of the competition, after Poland’s inspired Marcin Krukowski had added nearly three metres to his previous best with 79.19m in the first round, until everything clicked into place with his fifth effort.
“The win here wasn't a surprise for me since my personal best is the junior world record. I expected to win but I thought that it would be a little bit easier. However, I was sure that a good result was eventually going to come since I have thrown over 80 metres around 15 times,” commented Sirmais ruefully.
France’s Kevin Mayer publically stated that he was going to Tallinn to score over 8000 points in the Decathlon and he delivered on his promise, winning five of the individual events and setting four personal bests as he notched up a total of 8124 points.
Russian high jumper Mariya Kuchina also fulfilled her status as the prohibitive favourite. She was flawless until the bar was raised to 1.93m, which she went over with inches to spare, and then went over an outdoor best of 1.95m on her first attempt.
Kuchina, who holds the unofficial world indoor junior best with 1.97m, then had the bar audaciously raised to 2.00m but this just proved to be beyond her, at least for the moment.
Perhaps the loudest shout of triumph from all 40 individual winners came from the exuberant Slovenian Hammer thrower Barbara Spiler, who went from third to first with a personal best and championships record of 67.06m in the fifth round, after winning her country’s first ever gold medal at this event.
There were also impressive Championships records over the barriers of various types by Germany’s Varg Königmark, who won the 400m Hurdles in 49.70, and Russian steeplechaser Ilgizar Safiullin, who had the lead from gun-to-tape before crossing the line in 8:37.94.
Two other fine victories should also be noted.
France’s 19-year-old Jimmy Vicaut looks like he might be the next European sprinter under 10 seconds for the 100m after he clocked 10.07, moving up to third on the European junior all-time list, while Estonia’s Liina Laasma brought the house down when she won the Javelin with 55.99m.
The host nation had not won a single medal with only two events still remaining on the final day. It didn’t look promising that things would change with Laasma languishing down in fifth place after some below-par efforts ahead of the last round of her specialist event.
However, the local girl showed her competitive mettle with her sixth throw and produced the best throw of the competition; before sitting down with a towel over her face and turned away from her rivals, unable to look as the four women ahead each came up short.
The 2013 European Athletics Junior Championships will be held in Rieti, Italy, where the organisers will be hoping for an emotional finale to equal the one produced by Laasma on home soil in Tallinn.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF
* pending the usual ratification procedures