A day after Filippo Tortu stormed to the 100m title at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Grosseto, the hosts claimed their second gold medal on the third evening of competition courtesy of a storming performance from Vladimir Aceti in the 400m.
With less than five-tenths separating the eight finalists based on their performances in the semifinals, the race was difficult to predict but Aceti put himself in contention at the halfway point and with his distinctive forward-leading gait and low arm carriage, the 18-year-old forged away down the home straight for victory in 45.92.
“I didn't realise I was winning, I just gave everything until the finish line and then the gold medal jumped over me. I'm really happy, this medal is dedicated to a lot of people, the list is too long to be mentioned in a flash quote!” said Aceti, whose time was also an Italian U20 record and a European U20 leading mark.
Aceti led home a spree of lifetime bests and national U20 records. Running blind from the outside lane, Poland’s Tymoteusz Zimny held on for the silver medal after a fast start in 46.04 with Belgium’s Jonathan Sacour winning bronze in 46.23 by just 0.01 from Timothy Nou, who had the compensation of setting an Estonian U20 record.
Brit Owen Richardson was fifth from the inside lane in a lifetime best of 46.49 with Christopher O’Donnell sixth in an Irish U20 record of 46.54.
Golden hour for the Brits in Grosseto
Great Britain topped the standings in Eskilstuna, Sweden two years ago and the British team rocketed up the medal table after winning four gold medals in the space of one hour on the third day of the European Athletics U20 Championships in Grosseto.
The medal haul began in the 1500m when Jake Heyward added the European U20 title to his European U18 title from Tbilisi last year with a devastating sprint finish in 3:56.73 ahead of Belgium’s Dries De Smet in 3:56.98.
In a trademark championship race with plenty of pushing and jostling right from the gun, Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s chances of winning three titles in Grosseto vanished in an instant as he fell to the track with 300 metres remaining - although he still picked off four athletes to finish eighth in 3:58.64.
In the next race on the track, the British team went one better by claiming a one-two in the women’s 800m. In another tactical encounter, Khahisa Mhlanga held off a late charge from Ellie Baker, 2:06.96 to 2:07.01.
The future of British sprinting is in excellent hands as Maya Bruney, a training partner of Dina Asher-Smith, enjoyed a breakout afternoon on the blue track at the Carlo Zecchini Stadium. After clocking a lifetime best of 23.07 in the semifinal against a 1.9 m/s headwind, Bruney improved to a European U20 leading mark of 23.04 in the final into another headwind.
Germany claimed a brace of medals courtesy of Sophia Junk (23.45) and Katrin Fehm (23.49) while France’s Estelle Raffai, who previously held the European U20 lead, had to settle for fifth in 23.58.
Less than ten minutes later, there was another British gold medal to add to the tally as Toby Harries set a lifetime best of 20.81 ahead of teammate Jona Efoloko (20.92) while 17-year-old Samuel Purola from Finland, who only qualified as a fastest loser, won his second medal of the championships with bronze in 21.00.
Mrzyglod claims unexpected javelin gold
Poland’s Cyprian Mrzyglod was ranked third on the European U20 lists but he dominated the final, producing the four best throws of the competition. He set a national U20 record of 80.13m in the second round before improving to 80.52m in the third round.
There were lifetime bests for Belarus’ Aliaksei Katkavets (76.91m) and France’s Lukas Moutarde (74.22m) for silver and bronze respectively but world U20 leader Patriks Gailums from Latvia, who threw 81.91m earlier this month, had to settle for fourth with 73.43m.
France’s Solene Ndama was the fastest in the heats and won her semifinal into a strong headwind and the 18-year-old maintained her unbeaten streak to defeat European U20 leader Alicia Barrett from Great Britain.
Ndama set a lifetime best of 13.15 ahead of Barrett in 13.28 while world indoor U20 60m hurdles record-holder Klaudia Siciarz from Poland won bronze in 13.33.
While the outcome of the women’s sprint hurdles was largely clear cut from the halfway point, Switzerland’s Jason Joseph produced a brilliant sprint off the final barriers to move from third to first in 13.41 ahead of Great Britain’s Robert Sakala (13.48) and Spain’s Luis Salort (13.48) - a national U20 record.
Shirobokov dominates 10,000m walk
Competing as an Authorised Neutral Athlete, Sergey Shirobokov won the men’s 10,000m walk on a humid morning in 43:21.29.
After a slow opening first half, Shirobokov made a concerted move in the sixth kilometre and his path to the gold medal was made easier after pursuer Leo Kopp from Germany, who defeated Shirobokov at the European Race Walking Cup in Podebrady in May, was penalised for lifting while third-placer Lukasz Niedzialek from Poland was disqualified.
The last five laps for Shirobokov were a procession as the European U20 leader won by nearly a minute from Spain’s Jose Manuel Perez (44:17.23) and Ukraine’s Eduard Zabuzhenko (44:22.16).
“This race was just a transition before the World Championships in London. I dedicate this medal to my mother and to my dead father who initiated me to racewalking; every time I walk I remember him and thank him,” said Shirobokov, who also has the 20km walk qualifying mark at the World Championships in London.