Gold medal favourites Ajla Del Ponte and Nadine Visser more than lived up to their billing in the 60m and 60m hurdles finals respectively, blasting to world leading times and national records on the final day of the Torun 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
Del Ponte won the women’s 60m title in stunning fashion, dominating from start to finish and clocking a Swiss record of 7.03 to shave 0.05 from the 2021 world lead jointly held by Great Britain’s European champion Dina Asher-Smith, who chose not to compete here after sustaining a mid-season quad injury, and Javianne Oliver from the United States.
The 24-year-old from Locarno, who is part of the successful Dutch training set-up in Papendal alongside the likes of 400m winner Femke Bol, had looked smooth and assured through the rounds, but her composure broke very loudly as she realised the nature of her achievement; she has now moved to joint fifth on the all-time European indoor list.
A tearful Del Ponte said: “Amazing, a lot of emotions right now. It is my first title. I felt that I was going strong. I heard all the Swiss team cheering for me. And just told myself run, run, run.”
Silver went to the fast improving Lotta Kemppinen from Finland in 7.22. While Del Ponte’s winning margin was the biggest in championship history, the race for silver went down to the smallest of margins with Kemppinen nudging out Jamile Samuel from the Netherlands by 0.004.
Meanwhile, Visser retained her women’s 60m hurdles title in imperious fashion, clocking a world lead of 7.77, 0.04 faster than the mark she had previously shared with Christina Clemons from the United States.
The Dutch athlete, who is coached by Bart Bennema, got away to an electric start and was never threatened as she smashed her Dutch record again. Her winning time of 7.77 was the fastest time by a European since 2008, moves her to joint seventh on the European all-time list and was only 0.03 shy of the long-standing championship record held by Lyudmila Narozhilenko who was donning the red vest of the Soviet Union when she ran that time in Glasgow 1990.
“I had secretly hoped to run a time like this and thought that would be fantastic,” said Visser. “Now I just did it. I had confidence that I could do this. I was already in shape before the championships, but I am really happy to do it in the final.”
Silver and bronze went to British sisters Cindy Sember, who clocked 7.89, and Tiffany Porter, whose dip from lane eight earned her a time of 7.92 and bronze ahead of Finland’s Nooralotta Neziri, who clocked 7.93.
Hodgkinson dominates while Dobek surprises in the 800m finals
In the same week that she turned 19, Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, who set a now-surpassed world indoor U20 800m record of 1:59.03 last month, ran like a veteran to take women’s 800m gold.
One of three Britons in a final that began in slow and tentative fashion, she tracked home runner Joanna Jozwik, who was fifth in the Rio 2016 Olympic final, before moving to the front before the bell and timing her run for home to perfection, having the leeway to raise both arms as she crossed the line in 2:03.88.
Jozwik took silver in 2:04.00, with bronze going to her teammate Angelika Cichocka, who recorded 2:04.15.
Jenny Meadows, Hodgkinson’s mentor and wife of her coach, Trevor Painter, won this same title in Paris ten years ago. Asked what her coach and mentor had said to her ahead of the race, Hodgkinson replied: “They trust my instincts – they are letting me grow into being my own athlete.”
Home hopes for medals were even stronger in the men’s 800m, where they had three of the six finalists, and they were not disappointed as gold went to their new national champion Patryk Dobek who is better known for his exploits in the 400m hurdles.
He moved past Great Britain’s reigning silver medallist Jamie Webb into the lead as the bell rang, and was never headed despite some hectic action behind him.
As the field rounded into the long final straight the man seeking a fourth title, Adam Kszczot, showed he had lost none of his tactical nous as he moved to pass Webb on the outside, but the 31-year-old’s legs betrayed him.
Webb, who last month finished second behind his teammate Elliott Giles inside Sebastian Coe’s British indoor record with 1:44.54, was passed in the final strides by the fast-finishing third Pole in the race, Mateusz Borkowski, who took silver in 1:46.90 ahead of Webb’s 1:46.95.
The first of 12 scheduled finals in the last session of the Championships saw Great Britain’s world indoor 60m hurdles champion Andrew Pozzi equalling his personal best of 7.43 but having to settle for silver as Wilhem Belocian, one lane to his left, remained tantalisingly out of reach, winning in 7.42.
The French athlete got away marginally the better and maintained that narrow edge to the line, with bronze going to Paolo Dal Molin of Italy in 7.56, eight years after he won the same medal in Gothenburg,.
Positive coronavirus tests in the Polish camp ruled defending champion Ewa Swoboda out of the 60m and it also meant their team were unable to contest the men’s 4x400m relay in which they would have been strong medal favourites.
In their absence the Dutch quartet, with individual silver medallist Tony Van Diepen running the anchor leg, took gold in 3:06.06 from the Czech Republic (3:06.54) and Great Britain & NI (3:06.70).
Femke Bol earned her second gold medal of these championships as she brought home the baton courtesy of a blazing 49.9 anchor leg to give the Netherlands victory in the concluding event of the women’s 4x400m relay.
The Dutch finished in a championship record of 3:27.15, with Jessie Knight bringing Britain home for silver in 3:28.20 after an excellent contribution from individual bronze medallist Jodie Williams.
Poland, for whom individual silver medallist Justyna Swiety-Ersetic did not appear due to injury, took bronze in 3:29.94.
That final flourish saw the Netherlands top the medal table at these championships with four golds, a silver and two bronzes, followed by Portugal, with three golds, and Britain with two golds, four silvers and six bronzes.