Two outstanding women’s junior field event performers made a big mark in senior competition tonight (17) at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships, part of the multi-sport European Championships as Finland’s Wilma Murto equalled the championship record of 4.85m in the pole vault and Romania’s Bianca Ghelber won the hammer throw.
It was something of a belated triumph for the Romanian, now 32, whose early blizzard of titles – World U18 in 2005 and 2007, World U20 in 2006 and 2008 and European U20 in 2007 and 2009 – gave way to a highly respectable career which, save for a European U23 gold in 2011, has yielded no big medals.
That all changed as a first-round throw of 72.22m proved enough to secure the title – although only by 10 centimetres after the final-round effort of 72.12m from Poland’s Ewa Rozanska who ensured there would be Polish representation on the rostrum in the absence of the injured Anita Wlodarczyk.
Italy’s Sara Fantini earned bronze on 71.58m ahead of the other favourite in this event, Azerbaijan’s Hanna Skydan, who was fourth on 70.88m.
“I am very happy that I won a gold medal because my family is here with me,” said the gold medallist. “I also like my result, I had all throws over 71 metres. This was important for me. Thank you all for this competition and for the spectators who cheered a lot. I want to win a medal at next year's World Athletics Championships in Budapest.”
As far as the women’s pole vault is concerned, a star is not so much born as confirmed in Murto.
Still the world U20 record-holder thanks to her indoor 4.71m in 2016, the year in which she won world U20 bronze, Murto failed to qualify for the 2019 World Athletics Championships and the 2021 European Indoor Championships, but the mark of her quality was clear from her equal-fifth placing at the Tokyo 2020 Games last summer.
At last month’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene she felt she had big vaults in her, but wasn’t quite able to deliver, finishing equal sixth.
In this European arena, however, she was inspired - getting better the higher the bar went to overcome a champion’s effort from the Greek athlete won win this title in Berlin four years ago, Aikaterini Stefanidi, who must have thought she had retained it after a faultless sequence all the way up to a season’s best of 4.75m.
For much of the competition it seemed the 32-year-old defending champion’s main danger was her 33-year-old rival, the revitalised Tina Sutej of Slovenia who made 4.75m on her first attempt.
Murto had required two attempts to clear 4.55m and 4.65m and had passed after one failure at 4.70m. But she cleared 4.75m and then 4.80m, which proved to be the winning height as both her remaining rivals could go no further.
As Stefanidi and Sutej embraced, Murto remained utterly calm, composing herself for an attempt on 4.85m (to equal the championship record belonging to Stefanidi) after a brief confab with her coach - and clearing it on the second attempt, at which point, even on the way down, the emotion poured out before she knelt briefly on the mat with head in hands.
Denmark’s Caroline Holm set a national record of 4.55 in finishing joint fourth with Angelica Moser of Switzerland, and France’s Marie-Julie Bonnin also cleared that mark, a personal best, in sixth.
“After the World Championships I felt like there is so much more to come so I am very thankful now,” Murto said.
“This competition was just great. My dreams came true. I knew it had been in me for a long time but I just needed this day to come. Today, it felt like a perfect day to do that with my family and friends in the stands supporting me. This was like the strongest experience I have ever had.”
Pichardo completes the set of major titles in the triple jump
Portugal’s world and Olympic triple jump champion Pedro Pichardo earned his first European title with peerless ease thanks to a best effort of 17.50m that left him clear of his nearest challenger.
As things turned out Pichardo’s opening effort of 17.05m - his only other scoring mark after two passes and two fouls – would have been enough to secure gold, although only by a centimetre.
Italy’s Andrea Dallavalle went out to 17.04 in the fifth round to claim silver, with bronze going to France’s Jean-Marc Pontvianne, coached by the 2013 world champion and former world record holder Teddy Tamgho, who had a best of 16.94.
Pichardo, who keeps his emotions private during competition, offered a big smile of relief before taking his final jump, which was a foul – not that it mattered.
Meanwhile Nafissatou Thiam remains on track to retain her heptathlon title as she established a 214 points overnight lead after four of the seven events, improving her own high jump Championship best en route.
Belgium’s world, Olympic and defending champion has 4063 points, with compatriot Noor Vidts on 3849 and the Dutch Olympic and world silver medallist Anouk Vetter third on 3824.
If she wins tomorrow the title would come as an early present for her 28th birthday on Friday.
Thiam had arrived for her evening’s work leading by almost 200 points after outstanding efforts in the first two of the scheduled seven events.
After finishing third fastest in the opening 100m hurdles in 13.34 she improved her own high jump championship best of 2014 by a centimetre to add 1211 points for a two-event total of 2285, with Vidts, who had the second-best hurdles time of 13.29, on 2097 points and Sulek on 2080.
A shot put of 14.95m, third best and not a mile away from her personal best of 15.41, maintained Thiam’s lead as she reached 3143.
Sulek, with 14.18m, moved into second place on 2886, four points clear of Vidts, who finished ninth with a best of 13.86.
Vetter moved up to fourth on 2843 after gaining 907 points from the best effort of the day, 15.68m.
In the final discipline of the day, the 200m, Carolin Schafer rode the wave of noise that has accompanied all home athletes at these Championships to win the opening heat in 24.16, with Thiam third on 24.64.