The departure of Jana Koscak from the heptathlon could be Sandrina Sprengel’s gain as she extends her lead with one event remaining at the Jerusalem 2023 European Athletics U20 Championships on Tuesday (8) morning.
The landscape of the heptathlon changed significantly with event leader Koscak succumbing to a hamstring injury in yesterday’s shot put but Sprengel has since grasped a wide-open competition, seizing the overall lead after the 200m and extending it over the course of the long jump (5.99m) and javelin (42.41m) which brings her total to 5190 points.
But while Sprengel has embellished her gold medal prospects ahead of the concluding 800m, the destination of the silver and bronze medals has remained in a state of flux.
Seventh overnight, Sprengel’s Germany teammate Pia Messing has climbed up to second overall but the biggest mover of the morning is Switzerland’s Melissa Wullschleger who has moved up from eleventh to third after jumping 5.91m in the long jump and producing the best javelin mark across the two pools with 43.68m.
Second overnight, Estonia’s Liisa-Maria Lusti fell out of contention after failing to register a meaningful effort in the long jump before withdrawing from the javelin.
There could also be a brace of medals for Germany in the men’s shot put final as Lasse Schulz (20.00m), Lukas Schober (19.74m) and Georg Harpf (19.41m) led the two pools of qualifying.
However, there is no place in the final for last year’s European U18 champion Ali Peker from Türkiye, one of five athletes who didn’t record a valid mark.
Zakrzewski underlines his sprint double ambitions
Not since Darren Campbell in 1991 has a male athlete completed the sprint double at the European Athletics U20 Championships but Poland’s Marek Zakrzewski will be looking to follow suit more than three decades later.
One of the few sprinters - male or female - to double up in the 100/200m at these championships, Zakrzewski progressed as a heat winner in 21.13 and will now turn his focus to this evening’s 100m final which concludes the session at 8.10pm local time.
“My main goal is to achieve the best possible result in both events - the 100 and 200m here in Jerusalem. I want to do something that may seem impossible in theory. I want to fight for the medals in both distances. If I win a gold here again, this would mean something beautiful to me as it is a category higher,” said Zakrzewski who won the European U18 title on this track last year.
A late charge in the last 50 metres took Czech Republic’s Lurdes Gloria Manuel to victory in her 400m semifinal in 53.31, the fastest time across the two semifinals.
Manuel, who only just turned 18, has run more than two seconds faster this season with 51.23 but she isn’t taking anything for granted as she looks to upgrade her silver medal from last year’s European Athletics U18 Championships to gold this year.
“The final will be in the evening so we expect more pleasant weather conditions. I want to try to get the gold but the girls can also surprise so I am curious and looking forward to it. It will be a different race tomorrow, a big fight,” said Manuel.
Two of the youngest athletes competing at these championships impressed in the women’s 400m hurdles heats.
Ukraine’s Olha Mashanienkova, 16, was the fastest qualifier across the four heats in 57.30. But just as impressive was the 15-year-old Romanian Alexandra Stefania Uta who won her heat by exactly two-and-a-half seconds in 57.87.
Mashanienkova and Uta should already know each other well as they won gold and silver respectively in this event at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Maribor in July.
Celebrating her 19th birthday today, Sweden’s Moa Granat was another heat winner and the second fastest qualifier in 57.79.
Qualifying was a largely straightforward exercise for the favourites in the men’s 400m hurdles heats. Finland’s Antti Sainio was the fastest across the five heats in 51.30 ahead of Nikola Kostic in 51.41, one of the many Serbian prospects at these championships.
Steven Mills for European Athletics