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Ingebrigtsen begins quest for two titles in Istanbul with comfortable passage through 1500m heats

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  • Ingebrigtsen begins quest for two titles in Istanbul with comfortable passage through 1500m heats

Reigning champions Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Keely Hodgkinson progressed through their heats with consummate ease in the opening session of the Istanbul 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships at the Atakoy Arena on Thursday (2).

Ingebrigtsen, who has had only one race this year after missing more than a month’s training with a virus but is seeking to retain the 1500 and 3000m titles, hung back before coasting into the third automatic 1500m qualifying place in a race won by France’s Azeddine Habz in 3:49.88. 

Ingebrigtsen, who ran 3:32.38 in Lievin on 15 February, clocked 3:50.29 behind Habz and Britain’s George Mills – son of former England footballer Danny Mills – who recorded 3:50.01. 

“The race was an easy one. I wanted to save as much energy as I could,” he said, adding with a laugh: “The pace was slow and I love to believe that I contributed to it!” 

Asked to comment on the recent earthquakes in the region, he responded: “We all feel with Turkish people because of the recent events. At the same time, we are all grateful to get an opportunity to have a Championships, considering all circumstances.  

“It is important to be a part of this championship and hopefully to inspire all people to come, watch and cheer for us. Sport is a good thing in a difficult time. Hopefully we can contribute and the situation gets better. For me the goal is clear: to defend both titles.” 

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His principal rival for the final Neil Gourley won the third heat with the fastest time of the evening with 3:41.08 but notable non-qualifiers included Ireland's Andrew Coscoran, who ran an outright Irish record in Birmingham on Saturday, and Germany's Amos Bartelsmeyer.

In an untidy and scrappy heat, they finished third and fourth respectively in the second heat which was won by Italy's Pietro Arese in 3:43.97.

Mahuchikh falters...but then flies

For a while it looked as if day one would provide a huge surprise as Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh, widely expected to retain her women’s high jump title, failed in her first two attempts after delaying her entry until 1.87m.

After passing to 1.91m, however, she cleared first-time to become one of the eight who reached Sunday morning’s final with that height. 

“This was the most nervous qualification of my life,” she said. “I started with two faults and I said to myself ‘Hey, you should start jumping properly.’ I am so sorry for my fans and my coach that it was so nerve wracking.” 

But there were indeed surprises in the high jump as Marija Vukovic of Montenegro, who took silver behind Mahuchikh on countback at last year’s European Athletics Championships, failed to progress after failing at 1.91m, with Italy’s world bronze medallist Elena Vallortigara having an even worse night with a best of 1.82m. 

Mahuchikh’s compatriot Yuliia Levchenko, the 2017 world silver medallist who has European indoor silver and bronze in her medal collection, topped the list with three first-time clearances, and the third Ukrainian, Kateryna Tabashnyk, also progressed – prompting a relieved, and tearful clinch between the trio. 

Asked about a possible Ukraine clean sweep on Sunday morning, Mahuchikh replied: “Our motivation is on a very high level and we all want to win and show our best.” 

There were no drama for Hodgkinson, another of the championship favourites to defend her title. 

The Olympic and world silver medallist, who lowered her national record to 1:57.18 in Birmingham last weekend, led throughout the second 800m  heat and eased to victory in 2:01.67 with Germany’s Majtie Kolberg second in a personal best of 2:01.94. 

“I am happy with the race,” said Hodgkinson. “Sometimes the pace was a bit harder than running what I am used to, so I am actually quite tired. It is really special to be able to defend my title here.” 

Pichardo bounds out to 17.48m in triple jump qualifying

No dramas either for Portugal’s Olympic, world and European triple jump champion Pedro Pichardo who improved his own national indoor record by two centimetres to 17.48m with his first effort. Over and in. 

“It was a very good qualification for me,” Pichardo said. “I jumped the national record and the qualification mark in the first attempt which is always very good. I want to bring gold back home, that is the most important. Also, I want to jump far, maybe even set another record. We will see.” 


But Tibo de Smet, the fastest European over 800 metres this season, was one of two favoured athletes who failed to advance from the men’s heats tonight, along with Spain’s Saul Ordonez. 

The 23-year-old Belgian, whose national record of 1:45.04 in Luxembourg last month  has only been bettered by a clocking of 1:44.98 from Kenya’s Noah Kibet, had voiced doubts about his tactical experience before the Championships, but there was nothing wrong with his tactics on the night as he moved to the front midway through the race. 

He was left in third place, however as France’s Benjamin Robert and Simone Barontini came past him in the final lap, and his time of 1:48.43 was not sufficient to earn a place in the semifinals. “It was a tough race, and unfortunately I just could not keep up with them,” de Smet. 

Ordonez, the third fastest European this year after winning the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Madrid in 1:45.88, could only finish fourth in the opening heat. 

The fastest time of the night came from the 32-year-old 2019 world silver medallist Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who used all his experience to move late for victory in heat four in 1:47.22 after Britain’s Guy Learmonth had led for the majority of the race. 

Learmonth was rewarded for his initiative as he finished third in 1:47.51, the fifth fastest time of the night, to earn one of the two non-automatic qualifying times on offer. 

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Home runner Yasemin Can, the European 10,000m champion, managed to qualify for tomorrow’s women’s 3000m final despite going from first to sixth in the final 200 metres and staggering perilously as runners moved passed her, with Hanna Klein of Germany winning in 8:59.28. 

Klein’s compatriot Konstanze Klosterhalfen, the European 5,000m champion, had won the first heat with ease in 8:53.50, followed home by Finland’s Camilla Richardsson in a personal best of 8:53.60. 

Italy’s Zane Weir equalled his season’s best of 21.46m to top qualifiers in the men’s shot put, with Croatia’s outdoor European champion Filip Mihaljevic second on 21.20m, but there was nothing for Poland’s 2018 European champion Michal Haratyk, who has won gold and silver in the last two editions of these Championships, as he failed to register a mark. 

In the women's shot put the three favourites progressed as per programme with Jessica Schilder of the Netherlands, the European champion, throwing 19.18m, Portugal’s defending champion Auriol Dongmo recording 18.51m and Fanny Roos of Sweden throwing 18.35. 

Thankfully for all concerned there was no glimpse of the four cats who have taken up residence in this arena and have been registering preparations for this event with some disdain during the last couple of days.

Full results here.

Mike Rowbottom for European Athletics

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