European discus champion Mykolas Alekna, 20, made light work of qualification at the first morning session of the European Athletics U23 Championships in Espoo on Thursday (13).
- Full results here.
Needing a throw in excess of 58.50m, the giant Lithuanian safely sent the 2kg implement 61.42m into the sector with his second throw to routinely book his place in Saturday’s final.
Afterwards, the world silver medallist said: “It was good, the goal was to throw over the qualification mark and I managed so I am OK with my attempts. I just missed a bit of sleep in the morning, but everything is there. In the first one, I slipped a bit but in the second, it was OK. It happens sometimes.
“I like it here, the stadium is nice and a lot of people came to watch and support so it was nice. I feel it is important to win a medal at these championships. I do not know how far it may be, we will see. But the main goal of course, is to win.”
Also in the throws circle, Finnish title hope Silja Kosonen reigned supreme. She landed a first-round throw of 71.33m to head the qualifiers and automatically progress in the women’s hammer.
Come Saturday’s final, she will be optimistic she can add another age group crown to the world U20 and European U20 titles already on her impressive CV.
“It was a good throw. The first throw in the warm-up went to the net, the second was not so long, but I knew that I can throw more than 70m. And it felt good,” she said.
No problems for Hodgkinson on her major 400m debut
Another proven winner is Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, but the European 800m champion has stepped out of her comfort zone to take on the women’s 400m at these championships. Nonetheless, the 21-year-old eased through the first round, winning heat four in 53.08.
Afterwards, the Olympic and world 800m silver medallist said: “It is hard and it is a different kind of pain. I am still figuring out how to run the 400. I have come here for good practice - I don't get many chances of running the 400, so it is good to come here and race some other girls who are just as good as me. I feel better for it.
“It is a bit windy on the home straight, but in Britain we don't get these good conditions. I am still learning this event, so I need to speak to my coach to see what I did better or worse - I might get back to you later about whether I liked it.”
British teammate Yemi Mary John, the world U20 gold medallist also qualified, winning heat two in 53.16. However, the fastest times of the day came in the first heat with Switzerland’s Catia Gubelmann winning with 52.51.
In the men’s one lap event, Norway’s in-form Håvard Bentdal Ingvaldsen effortlessly breezed through, winning heat two slowing up in 46.12. Fellow sub-45 second performer Attila Molnar from Hungary was the fastest qualifier of the morning, winning his heat in 45.86.
Dutch athletes make smooth progress in Espoo
Meanwhile in the 100m heats, world U20 bronze medallist N'Ketia Seedo made serene progress winning her women’s heat in 11.34 (-1.1m/s), just 0.02 slower Greece’s Polyniki Emmanouilidou who was the fastest qualifier in 11.32 with the benefit of a gentle tailwind.
In the men’s 100m, her Dutch teammate Raphael Bouju headed the qualifiers, winning the third heat in 10.26 (+0.2m/s).
Sofie Dokter from the Netherlands was in record-breaking form as she grabbed the early initiative in the women’s heptathlon. The Dutch athlete cleared 1.89m in the high jump, a seven centimetre improvement on her previous best outdoors although she has cleared 1.86m indoors.
Added to a solid 13.95 into a headwind of -1.4m/s in the 100m hurdles, she is the early leader with 2078 points. But Finland’s two-time world U20 heptathlon champion Saga Vanninen is ready and poised in second place with 1991 points with 13.50 (-1.4m/s) and 1.77m respectively.
In the field, European U20 champion Alida Van Daalen from the Netherlands eased through the women’s shot put qualifiers with 15.99m and Marleen Mulla of Estonia, the top ranked women’s pole vaulter, advanced with 4.20m.
In the middle-distance events, Great Britain’s Matthew Stonier took the men’s 1500m heats in his stride. A finalist at the European Athletics Championships last year, he jogged home fourth in the first heat in 3:45.47 to claim one of six automatic places in Saturday’s final.
In the women’s 800m heats, the top ranked athlete Daniela Garcia of Spain cruised around the kerb to win the first heat in 2:06.08 to safely progress to Friday’s final.
Chris Broadbent for European Athletics