Karsten Warholm was back in the winning groove and Femke Bol back on the track where she took 400m flat gold the night before in the semifinals of the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles in the packed Thursday (18) morning session at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships, part of the multi-sport European Championships.
Four weeks on from his home straight fade to seventh in defence of his world title, Warholm looked a little closer to his best on the recovery road from the hamstring tear that threatened to bring an early conclusion to his season as he finished a clear winner of his race in 48.38 – 0.14 ahead of France’s Ludvy Vaillant.
The world record-holder and Olympic champion from Norway stuttered slightly after clearing the final barrier but still recorded the fastest winning time in the city where he underwent treatment and recuperation under the guidance of the renowned German physical therapist Dr Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt.
The man known as ‘Healing Hans’ will be Warholm’s guest at Friday’s final, in which he will start favourite in the defence of the title he won in Berlin four years ago – ahead of the other semifinal winners Wilfried Happio of France (48.89) and Türkiye’s 2016 European champion Yasmani Copello (49.34).
“At the last hurdle I was just slowing down my pace and missed some steps,” said Warholm. “I had it under control, so no problem.
“The atmosphere here is amazing. I have been watching it from my hotel room. There is a German athlete in the final [Joshua Abuakiu, runner up to Happio in 49.05], so I am sure that will help a lot with getting the crowd going tomorrow.”
In Friday’s evening session Bol will have the opportunity to compete the unprecedented 400m hurdles and 400m flat double that proved beyond Warholm in Berlin in 2018.
Having won the 400m on Wednesday night in 49.44, a Dutch record, European lead and second fastest on the world list in 2022, the 22-year-old Dutchwoman took it easy in the opening stages of her 400m hurdles semi-final but still couldn’t help easing to victory in 53.73 – ahead of two-time European silver medallist Anna Ryzhykova of Ukraine (54.25).
“I was so happy with my gold medal yesterday but I don’t think I am well rested from the 400m final,” said Bol, who has taken world silver and Olympic bronze in the 400m hurdles in the past twelve months.
“I was a bit tired out there today. I was able to run 53.73 with a tired body. Now I am looking forward to what I can do in the final.”
A half-awake Bol was the only woman to run inside 54 seconds. The other semi-final winners were Spanish champion Sara Gallego (55.17) and Finnish record-holder Vivi Lehikoinen (54.51). There will also be home representation in the final with Carolina Krafzik finishing second to Gallego in 55.29.
Duplantis progresses on his second attempt in pole vault qualifying
By his own stratospheric standards, Mondo Duplantis was not quite at his most alert in the pole vault qualifying competition, needing two attempts to negotiate his opening height, 5.65m, and securing his place in Saturday’s final in joint third place.
“If I were a car, I’d probably say I was in middle to low gear,” said the 22-year-old Swede who holds a full set of major championship titles which dates back to Berlin 2018 where he famously cleared 6.05m aged 18, together with the 6.21m world record. “It was a little tricky in the wind at first but I felt good. I was able to save some energy for the final.”
Asked about the prospect of bettering his world record in the final, Duplantis replied: “I guess we will have to see. The first goal is always to try and win the gold. If I am able to do that, then we will see.”
Thibaut Collet, whose father and co-coach Phillipe earned European bronze behind Sergey and Vasily Bubka in Stuttgart in 1986, had a first time success at 5.65m. His French teammate Renaud Lavillenie cleared at the second attempt but the former world record holder’s younger brother Valentin no-heighted.
Poland’s three-time world medallist Piotr Lisek only managed 5.50m and missed the qualifying cut, as did Belgium’s Ben Broeders and the highly rated Turkish vaulter Ersu Sasma who has cleared 5.80m this year.
Dropping down to the 800m after his stunning 1500m victory at the World Championships, Jake Wightman looked his customarily assured self in the opening first round heat.
The Briton was a comfortable winner, surging into the lead off the final bend and crossing the line in 1:45.93 ahead of Italy’s Simone Barontini (1:45.08) and France’s Gabriel Tual (1:46.08).
They proved to be the three fastest times of the morning. The next fastest heat winner was Belgian Eliott Crestan (1:47.41), the other two races yielding victories for Poland’s Olympic bronze medallist Patryk Dobek (1:47.49) and Ireland’s 2014 European bronze medallist Mark English (1:47: 54).
There was a notable casualty in the opening race in the women’s 800m first round heats. Having made the World Championships final in her debut season at the distance, Anita Horvat tripped and fell as she prepared to launch her charge from the rear of the field off the final bend.
The Slovenian picked herself up to finish a distant eighth and last in 2:23.76 in a race won in 2:00.89 by defending two-time champion Natalia Krol from Ukraine.
The other heat winners were world and Olympic silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson (2:03.72), her British team-mate Jemma Reekie (2:02.36) and France’s two-time European silver medallist Renelle Lamotte (2:02.22).
The Czech Republic’s two-time Olympic javelin champion Barbora Spotakova, seeking a fourth European Championships medal at the age of 41, notched the third best time in the qualifying round – 60.75 – behind Liveta Jasiuniaute of Lithuania (61.85m) and European U20 champion Elina Tzengko of Greece (61.28m), her junior by 21 years.
This represented a significantly more auspicious performance than Spotakova’s debut at the European Athletics Championships in this very stadium in 2002 when she didn’t make the final on her major senior debut.
Full results here.