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Historic golds for Austria and Estonia at Roma 2024

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Estonian and Austrian athletes came to the party at the Roma 2024 European Athletics Championships by winning gold medals on another epic night at the Stadio Olimpico.

Johannes Erm won only the second gold medal ever for Estonia at the European Athletics Championships, following in the hallowed spike marks of  Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medallist Erki Nool, European champion in Budapest 1998, by also winning decathlon gold for the Baltic nation.

Beautifully poised

The competition was beautifully poised heading into the final three events with Norway’s Sander Skotheim leading on 6293 points. 

Just behind him was Makenson Gletty, the French athlete who took full advantage of his earlier reprieve in the 110m hurdles with a personal best 13.88 (+0.7 m/s) in a solo re-run, on 6266 points. Next came Erm on 6235 and then European U23 champion Markus Rooth of Norway on 6155. 

Pivotal pole vault

The pole vault was pivotal, Erm cleared a personal best of 5.20m and Rooth also equalled his lifetime performance with 5.10m. But for Skotheim, there was a minor disaster as he could only clear 4.60m, 75cm short of his personal best. 

Meanwhile, Gletty managed 4.90m and his France team-mate Kevin Mayer, twice world champion, nosed back into contention with a 5.30m clearance. It left Erm in gold medal position on 7207, followed by Gletty on 7146, Rooth on 7096, Skotheim tumbled to fourth on 7083 and Mayer fifth on 7011.

In the javelin, Erm produced a crucial final effort of 62.71m, adding 2.15m to his personal best. Mayer landed a very healthy 69.54m, Skotheim threw 61.27m, Gletty 57.47m and after limping away from the pole vault, Rooth pulled out of the competition. 

Going into the final 1500m discipline, it left Erm 93 points to the good on 7986, from Mayer (7893), with Gletty and Skotheim virtually inseparable on 7846 and 7840 respectively. 

Erm sealed the title with 4:24.95 in the 1500m to finish on 8764. Skotheim, no doubt rueing his pole vault score, clocked 4:42.21 to win silver with 8635 and Gletty grabbed a breakthrough bronze with 4:27.70 for a total of 8606. 

The defending champion Kaul of Germany made a late climb up the rankings with a 75.45m javelin and 4:17.77 1500m to finish fourth with 8547. Kevin Mayer finished fifth with 8476.    

Loving the big stage

“It has been two amazing days,” said Erm. “I do not remember when I was last time this happy. I love it here. A lot of Estonian fans came here, and every single one counted. All the locals - everyone cheered us on, you could feel it in all events, especially in the 1500m. 

“I just loved the big stage. I got four PBs plus the decathlon, but I would say that nothing was perfect, but everything was very, very, very good. Or at least above average. I know that there is room to improve but it is really difficult to put all ten events together and I just did it, so that is just amazing. 

“A lot of decathletes train twice a day, but I am the lazy one - I do not like to warm up so I just do one five-hour training [session]. It is just a lot of trainings all over the years and the older you get, the more experienced you get and that helps you in this event.”

Hudson wins first Austrian gold for 53 years

Austria’s Victoria Hudson became Austria’s first gold medallist at the European Athletics Championships since 1971, by winning gold in the women’s javelin. Fifth at last year’s World Athletics Championships, she set out her stall right from the start, landing a throw of 64.62m in the opening round.

It was good enough for gold, but only just. Serbia’s Adrian Vilagos came mighty close with a third round 64.42m. It gave Vilagos her second successive silver at the European Athletics Championships. Marie-Therese Obst of Norway produced a personal best 63.50m, also in the third round to take bronze. The defending champion Elina Tzengko of Greece finished sixth with a best of 59.46m.

"I am a bit in disbelief at the moment," said Hudson in the immediate aftermath. "It is incredible, I cannot believe that I can say 'I am a European champion'. That is really something I have dreamed of, making a medal - at any major championship. It is a dream and I am going to celebrate with my team. I could not have done it without them.

"I have just grown very secure in my abilities, my technical abilities, the way we work in our team. My training partner Lukas Weisshaidinger, he got a silver medal in the men's discus, so we have really professional vibes in our training group. There is a lot of professionalism with us. I really fought for it today and I am glad that I stayed focused.

"The warm-up was not particularly good. It is incredible for me that the first throw was actually the gold medal throw. I have been doing this for so many years now and I have always struggled at major championships.

"All the hard work paid off. There has been a big shift in Austrian athletics. Normally Austrians would not be in top positions. Now Austrians start to believe in themselves. The federation is innovative and has made huge steps and in younger age groups we start to get medals.

"Lukas started this wave and this opened everyone's hearts and brains. There has been a big mind shift, it is a wave that is carrying on and getting better."

Chris Broadbent for European Athletics




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