Malaika Mihambo, whose defence of her European long jump title on home soil was in doubt because of a coronavirus infection, returned to business as usual on the second morning of the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships on Tuesday (16), part of the wider multi-sport European Championships in the Bavarian capital.
Having raised the alarms with a first-round foul, Mihambo, the Olympic and two-time world champion, flew out to 6.99m, clapping her hands as she emerged from the pit after an effort that comfortably exceeded the qualifying mark of 6.75m.
“In the first attempt, I had some technical problems - I missed the board and I was far from my mark so then I pushed it a bit forward and the jump was good,” Mihambo said.
“In the end, I was quite happy with the jump. I was sick for two weeks after the World Championships. I got COVID. It did not bother me too much - it was for five days but then I could not train properly for another eight days so it took some time. I am feeling quite good after it so I am looking forward to the final."
The second best qualifier was Ukraine’s multi-talented Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, silver medallist in Berlin four years ago and world silver medallist in 2019, who achieved a season’s best of 6.87m.
Serbia’s Milica Gardasevic, who failed to record a mark in qualifying at last month’s World Athletics Championships, made no mistake today, securing her passage with an opening effort of 6.83m that equalled her personal best.
“After that non-lucky qualification at the Worlds, I am now feeling amazing.” said Gardasevic, the 2017 European U20 champion.“I expect to give my everything in the final. I am aware that I can jump far, even further than today so I hope I can accomplish it.”
Great Britain’s renowned championship performer Jazmin Sawyers, who earned European silver in 2016, moved through with 6.60m.
Gardasevic’s most esteemed compatriot Ivana Vuleta who won this title in 2016 shortly before taking Olympic bronze, topped the second group. She qualified with 6.67m ahead of Italy’s Larissa Iapichino (6.63m) and Khaddi Sagnia from Sweden (6.59m).
Ehammer in prime position for decathlon gold
Simon Ehammer leads this year’s world lists in the long jump with 8.45m, and took world bronze in that event last month, but here he has been in pursuit of his first senior decathlon gold.
With only this evening’s javelin and 1500m to come his chances look healthy, particularly after his pole vault personal best of 5.20m in his last event of the opening session.
The 22-year-old maintained his overnight lead as he produced the top performance in the opening 110m hurdles, clocking 13.75 to earn 1007 points to move to 5668 points, with Italy’s Dario Dester second on 5245 and Estonia’s Janek Oiglane third on 5133.
The moustachioed Adam Sebastian Helcelet of the Czech Republic maintained his competitiveness as he clocked the second fastest time of 14.36, ahead of Oiglane on 14.39 and Germany’s Kai Kazmirek on 14.42.
As the only thrower in his group who had not achieved a 40 metre-throw, Ehammer was on the back foot in the discus, and he managed only 562 points from his effort of 34.92m, finishing 17th as Karel Tilga of Estonia produced the best effort of 49.91m.
Ehammer raised his game for the pole vault, earning 972 points that left him with an eight-event total of 7202 ahead of Italy’s Dario Dester (6852 points) and Estonians Maicel Uibo (6788 points) and Janek Oiglane (6779 points).
But lurking just out of medal contention is Germany’s Niklas Kaul who is currently seventh with 6682 points but still very capable of making a late charge for a medal - and maybe even a title - in the last two events.
The emotional high-point of the morning’s decathlon competition, however, came when Germany’s defending champion Arthur Abele, making his competitive farewell, effectively earned himself an individual showcase as he was allowed to re-run the 110m hurdles, from which he had been initially false-started, as time trial.
The 36-year-old, who holds the championship record of 13.55 from the Zurich 2014 edition, was cheered over every hurdle as he clocked 14.50, the eighth best time, to earn 911 points.
"This is the last decathlon for me, so it was special," Abele said. "I will always remember this. I wanted to do this decathlon with all the disciplines. So it was very emotional for me to end up like this.
"After the 110m hurdles, I was completely down. I said like, OK, this was it. But I stayed focused because I had all the ten things so I was cool. In front of the home crowd, it was very emotional today. I was like up and down, up and down and then down down down... It was tricky to race alone in front of all the people cheering for me but it was also unforgettable moment.
"The problem was that they told it to me after the first discus throw so that was very emotional. I though that I cannot race anymore. But it was cool and fun."
The sight of Abele making his way alone down the straight recalled the individual re-run that took place when the European Athletics Championships were last held in this stadium in 2002 when Irish 200m runner Paul Brizzel, running in the outside lane, had to duck as an overhead television camera impinged into his space.
After finishing last he appealed and was allowed to run against the clock to see if he could qualify as one of the four fastest losers. He failed by 0.15 of a second.
Carabana's selfless act in the 3000m steeplechase heats
The first of the men’s 3000m steeplechase heats involved an example of sportsmanship that had echoes of the interaction at the Rio 2016 Olympics between Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States which earned both the IOC’s Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship.
Denmark’s European U20 cross country champion Axel Vang Christensen, contesting the lead, fell heavily over a barrier with three laps remaining and remained crumpled on the track until Andorra’s back-marker Nahuel Carabana stopped to help him and move him away from the inside lanes before giving him a pat on the back and setting off to complete his own race.
Carabana instantly became the focus of the race, cheered to the echo on every subsequent lap for his sportsmanship and compassionate spirit.
Christensen, meanwhile, was attended to and left the arena on a stretcher.
The incident brought to mind what happened in the women’s 5,000m heat where Hamblin and D’Agostino collided early on, and the latter helped the former to her feet. When D’Agostino went to ground again because of what turned out to be a torn ACL Hamblin returned the favour and the two made it to the line, where they embraced.
Italy’s Osama Zoghlami won in 8:30.67 from home runner Karl Bebendorf on 8.31.67 and Norway’s Tom Karbo on 8:32.22, and the second heat also went to Italy as Ahmed Abdelwahed clocked 8:30.92 ahead of Norway’s Jacob Boutera on 8:31.03.
Bol barely breaks sweat in 400m semifinals
Femke Bol’s hopes of achieving a 400m/400m hurdles double got off to a solid start as she qualified with ease for tomorrow’s final by winning her semifinal in 50.60.
The 22-year-old Dutchwoman, who has won Olympic bronze and world silver at 400m hurdles in the space of the last year, will face strong opposition from Poles Natalia Kaczmarek and Anna Kielbasinska, fastest qualifiers in 50.40 and 50.45 respectively, and Great Britain’s Victoria Ohuruogu, who ran a personal best of 50.50.
Great Britain’s defending men’s 400m champion Matthew Hudson-Smith, who has already won world bronze and Commonwealth silver this season, looks on course to complete his medal set given the way in which he qualified for tomorrow’s final.
Hudson-Smith led into the straight and shut down 30 metres from the line, clocking 44.98, with Switzerland’s European U23 champion Ricky Petrucciani second in 45.55.
Fellow reigning champion Laura Muir, who added a Commonwealth gold to her collection earlier this month in Birmingham, qualified in imperious fashion for Thursday’s final.
The Scot moved into the lead with two laps remaining, elongating the pack and remaining at the front all the way to the line, applying a touch on the accelerator in the final 50 metres as Italy’s Ludovica Cavalli moved up to challenge.
Muir clocked 4:06.40, with Cavalli on 4:06.59, Sweden’s Hanna Hermansson on 4:07.08, and home runner Katharina Trost, to much home satisfaction, earning the fourth automatic spot for Friday’s final in 4:07.20.
Poland’s silver medallist in Berlin four years ago, Sofia Ennaoui, overtook longtime leader Ciara Mageean in the final 50 metres to win the second semifinal in 4:02.73, with the Irish runner taking second place in a 4:03.03 ahead of Germany’s Hanna Klein, who clocked 4:03.46, and Romania’s Claudia Bobocea, who earned the last automatic place in 4:03.63.
Full results here.