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Glory times for a glorious future

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It was four days to remember in Eskilstuna - a European Athletics Junior Championships of records, of tears, of cheers and, above all, an event that showed how much the sport is alive and kicking with the stars of the future.

The Ekängen Arena in Sweden treated the full house crowds to sensational races, throws, jumps and endless personal best performances.

There were over 200 personal bests, proving how so many competitors have peaked for this major event of the summer.

Great Britain & Northern Ireland ended the championships with their best performance since 1991, as they finished with 17 medals - 11 gold and six silver - followed by Russia with 16 (5-5-6) and Germany with 17 (4-8-5).

And perhaps no better place to start than with the nation who were third because in Alina Reh they had one of the individual performers of the whole weekend.

Reh, who was 18 in May, won the 3000m on Saturday evening (9:12.29) and then less than 24 hours later she was victorious again, this time in the 5000m (16:02.01).

Fourth at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samokov last December, now she has two gold medals and is a name to watch out for in the years ahead.

Talking about doubling up - how about the two silvers for Norway’s Karsten Warholm.

It is not often an athlete takes time out from the grueling 10-events of the decathlon to compete in something else. But he did on Saturday, to finish second in the 400m and then on Sunday taking silver in the decathlon with a personal best score of 7764.

Yet in the multi-events he was beaten by a man who showed what legacy can do - Jan Dolezal, of the Czech Republic.

The nation which brought the sport world record-holders in Tomas Dvorak and Roman Sebrle now has a new star in Dolezal, who won with 7929.

Florentina Marincu, the European indoor bronze medallist, made the podium twice, too, in the individual disciplines, as she won her main event, the long jump (6.78m) on Sunday, the day after taking triple jump bronze (13.08m).

From the opening event on Thursday morning, with the men’s shot put qualifying, the championships were treated to arguably the man with more pressure than anyone in Eskilstuna - Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki.

Having finished sixth with a European junior record at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague in March, Bukowiecki showed once more what he is made of.

He was best in qualifying with 20.39m and then he won gold later that first night with a championship record of 22.62m.

Bukowiecki was not alone, though, on rewriting history because on Friday, Hungary’s Bence Halasz broke the hammer’s championship record as he won with a throw of 79.60m.

The British team returned home with their heads held high after their outstanding medal collection - they finished top of the table for the second European Athletics Junior Championships in a row - where their 11 golds came from Ojie Edoburun (100m), Tommy Ramdhan (200m), Laviai Nielsen (400m), Kyle Langford (800m), Josh Kerr (1500m), Bobby Clay (1500m), Alex George (5000m), Morgan Lake (high jump), Adam Hague (pole vault), women’s 4x100m and women’s 4x400m.

And the words of Nielsen summed up so much of what athletes will learn from these championships as she spoke after anchoring the 4x400m team to glory.

'It was such a massive relief because it was really intimidating in the call room, but we all knew we could win it if we pulled out our best performances,' said Nielsen.

'To actually do it is an amazing feeling. The success we’ve had as a team over the past two or three days has really pushed us on because we really wanted to add to that.'

Team work, the desire to take careers to another level - and what it is like to be in that call room, and the pressures that come before a big race.

And then being able to deliver.

Delivering like he never had before was Azerbaijan’s Nazim Babayev in the triple jump final when he broke the 1985 championship record with his brilliant 17.04m.

Everything came together perfectly, with his run-up, his take-off, his landing, and his distance - which says so much about him.

Having won gold in front of his home crowd at the European Games a few weeks earlier in Baku, once more he demonstrated that he can strike when it matters - which not all athletes can.

On Sunday the strengths of the field events were impressive with Poland’s Bartlomiej Stoj beating world junior champion Martin Markovic to gold with a championship record of 68.02m after the Croatian had smashed the old mark earlier in the competition with his 67.11m.

Indeed, four days to remember - and four days which will play such a big part in the future of so many.

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