Italy's Fabbri takes surprise shot silver at World Championships

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  • Italy's Fabbri takes surprise shot silver at World Championships

Leonardo Fabbri took a surprise silver medal in the shot put when he unleashed a personal best of 22.34m in the third round, a mark which stood up throughout the second half of the competition during the first evening session of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 on Saturday.

Fabbri started the day as the second-string Italian – behind 2023 European indoor champion Zane Weir who was to finish a disappointing 11th – and only just scraped into the final as the 12th and last qualifier from the morning’s qualification rounds.

However, once the final got underway on a hot and sticky evening in the Hungarian capital, Fabbri looked a different athlete and finished as number two in the world behind only USA's world record holder and two-time world champion Ryan Crouser.

After a foul and then 21.26m, Fabbri sent his 7.26kg implement out to 22.34m, going over 22 metres for the first time in his career and adding 35cm to his best.

The Florentine putter finished with two fouls and then a 21.22m in the final round, and despite two other men behind him also going over 22 metres, Fabbri got his first international championship medal since he took bronze at the European Youth Olympic Festival a decade ago.

“I am so proud because I saw a lot of Italian supporters in the stands. I hoped I could make them proud as well,” said the delighted Fabbri, who is become the first Italian to medal in the shot put since Alessandro Andrei also took silver 36 years ago on home soil in Rome.

“For me it was so important to break the 22-metre barrier. It was almost a perfect season for me. I enjoyed every competition, and I performed consistently but until now I was not able to throw over 22 metres. This silver medal opens up new doors for me as the Olympics are coming. It's strange but it was my first final at a global event,” he added, acknowledging that he had fallen short and not made it out of the qualifying rounds at the last two World Athletics Championships.

Dutch demise hands silver to Great Britain

Great Britain added to the European medal tally shortly after Fabbri with a silver medal in the mixed 4x400m.

They were solidly in third place for 1595 metres thanks to sterling performances from Lewis Davey, Laviai Nielsen, Rio Mitchum and European U23 400m champion Yemi Mary John as the Netherlands battled with the USA some distance in front of them for gold and silver.

However, tragedy befell the normally indefatigable Femke Bol five metres from the line and the European 400m hurdles record holder stumbled while just fractionally in the lead and fell to the track with the baton flying from her hand.

As the USA clinched the gold medal in a world record 3:08.80, John and Czech Republic’s Lada Vondrova swept past the prostrate Bol for silver and bronze in national records of 3:11.06 and 3:11.98 respectively.

“I do not know what happened. It has never happened to me before. I cramped towards the finish line, I was pushing, pushing, pushing. I was disappointed that my body did not have it in to finish the race strongly.,” said the luckless Bol.

Despite profiting from the Netherlands’ misfortune, nothing could dull the British quartet’s delight.

“I know what it's like to win a medal and how it can change your life. I told these guys that we are capable and we are strong enough so let's go get it and we did,” said second leg runner Neilsen, who split of 50.45 was critical to Britain climbing the podium.

Bol’s demise was the second time on Saturday night that the Netherlands’ snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as a short while before the former world champion Sifan Hassan looked well on the way to regaining the 10,000m title she won in 2019 after changing gears around the last bend before crashing to the track with 25 metres remaining.

Norway’s reigning 5000m world champion Jakub Ingebrigtsen started his Budapest campaign for double gold in imperious fashion with a 1500m first round win in 3:33.94, the fastest ever time in a world championships heat by almost a second.

Following him home in comfortable fashion, Great Britain’s Josh Kerr clocked 3:34:00 while the Netherlands Niels Laros was another heat winner in 3:34.25, showing no ill effects after winning the European U20 1500m and 5000m just over a week ago and finishing just ahead of Spain's Mohamed Katir who clocked 3:34.34.

Great Britain’s 100m world-leader Zharnel Hughes eased to a heat win in 10.00 despite a very sluggish start to go through to Sunday’s semi-finals as the fastest European.

KJT second overnight in heptathlon

In the injury-induced absence of Belgium's defending champion Nafissatou Thiam, Katarina Johnson-Thompson was the leading European overnight in the heptathlon.

The Briton moved up from fifth place after three events to second after four with a tally of 3905 points – just eight points behind the US leader Anna Hall – after being the fastest in the 200m with 23.48.

The discus automatic qualifying mark was set at 66.50m and in the airless conditions it was no surprise that no one surpassed that mark but the qualifying competition was headed by three Europeans with familiar names.

Sweden’s 2019 world champion Daniel Stahl led the way with 66.25m followed closely by the 2022 European champion Mykolas Alekna, from Lithuania with 66.04m while Slovenia’s defending world champion Kristjan Ceh ended the evening in third with 65.95m.

World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 full results and timetable can be found here.

Phil Minshull for European Athletics

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