Olympic high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi played a captain’s part as Italy secured their first ever European Athletics Team Championships title they so narrowly missed in the Silesian Stadium two years ago on Sunday (25).
Tamberi, whose late withdrawal because of injury in 2021 effectively allowed the hosts to retain their title as there was no replacement available, banished any lingering regrets by securing maximum points with a best of 2.29m.
- Full results here.
A second Italian victory on the day from European indoor shot put champion Zane Weir helped the team who missed out by 2.5 points last time round to finish 24 points clear on 426.50.
Poland, who had been seeking a third consecutive title, were second with 402.50, finishing rousingly in the concluding 4x400m mixed relay as European silver medallist Natalia Kaczmarek brought home the baton to rapturous applause from the most sizeable crowd of the championships.
An earlier maximum points total had been delivered in similar circumstances earlier by Alicja Konieczek in the women’s 3000m steeplechase.
After a string of disappointments on the first two days, France were the in-form team of the day with three victories thanks to Ryan Zeze in the men’s 200m, Hilary Kpatcha in the women’s long jump and Nawal Meniker in the women’s high jump, which helped towards a total of 337.50 which placed them seventh.
Germany were third on 387.5 and two victories - from Esther Guerrero in the women’s 1500m and debutant Thierry Ndikumwenayo in the men’s 5000m - helped lift Spain into fourth place on 352 points ahead of a British team that performed consistently without winning any event.
Relegated to the 2nd Division were Norway on 223 points, Türkiye on 245 and - for all the game efforts of shot putter Jolien Boumkwo - Belgium on 250, 6.50 points behind Greece.
They will be replaced in the 1st Division at the 2025 European Athletics Team Championships in Madrid by Hungary, Ukraine and Lithuania who finished first, second and third respectively in the 2nd Division which concluded on Thursday evening.
Olympic champion Tamberi contributes one of seven Italian victories
Tamberi was made to work for victory in his first competition in nine months, winning on countback after Belgium’s Thomas Carmoy equalled his personal best.
With the high jump competition won Tamberi, who had had two unsuccessful attempts at 2.3m1, upped the ante to a world lead of 2.34m for his final jump before becoming a temporary MC as he bid the crowd absorb and engage.
He wasn’t particularly close. But the urge towards the edge abides and it is the instinct of a showman; and of a champion.
“These championships are about team spirit, not individual achievements,” Tamberi said. “What we have to achieve here is to win the trophy for Italy. Being the captain of our Italian squad, I would like to see every single athlete and every single coach on the tribune to support each other.
“I have never seen our team as strong as here and I'm incredibly happy to be the captain of the strongest Italian athletics team ever.”
Weir’s winning effort of 21.59m frustrated the ambition of home thrower Michal Haratyk, the 2018 European champion, of completing a hat-trick of victory.
Haratyk was eventually displaced to third position as Great Britain’s Scott Lincoln produced a timely season’s best of 21.10m.
“I have been struggling a bit since the opening of the outdoor season,” said Weir. “I'm in great physical shape, but I’m still trying to work things out technically. The season is long and the World Championships are still two months away.
“I'm trying hard to enjoy competing. There's a lot of pressure and expectation but I want it to be a celebration of the hard work I've done. It's always good to get top points, but I'm a little bit disappointed with my distance today.”
Konieczek’s victory in 9:38.72 completed a family contribution to the cause following the ninth place claimed by her sister Aneta, with a personal best of 15:43.35, in Friday’s women’s 5000m.
“I didn't charm the stadium today, I am the one who was charmed,” said Konieczek, who also won the 3000m steeplechase two years ago. “The pace was slow today but supporters helped me with the finish.”
The crowd were also fully energised in the last individual track race of the championships as home athlete Martyna Galant made a final effort that lived up to her name in the women’s 1500m but missed victory by just 0.01 as Guerrero held on for maximum points in 4:11.77.
Italy’s European 10,000m champion Yemaneberhan Crippa, who set a 5000m championship record of 13:17.23 here two years ago, had to settle for third in a race won by Thierry Ndikumwenayo.
The 26-year-old Burundi-born runner, who announced his current form by running 12:58.60 to finish sixth in Oslo earlier this month, moved ahead of Andreas Almgren on the final back straight, although the Swede tracked him closely all the way to the line as both men sprinted home.
Ndikumwenayo finished in 13:25.48, with Almgren clocking 13:25.70 and Crippa coming home in 13:34.29.
A trio of victories aids the French cause on day three
That result kept Italy on course, as did the women’s long jump in which Larissa Iapichino, who set an outright personal best of 6.97m in Istanbul to take European indoor silver, finished second on 6.66m behind the 6.75m achieved by Kpatcha.
This was a significant and notable win for Kpatcha whose last visit to the Silesian Stadium ended in disaster.
Two years ago, on the very same track for the very same competition, Kpatcha suffered a serious injury in warm-up consisting of ACL rupture, disinsertion of the biceps femoris, lateral collateral ligament and popliteus muscle.
"It was very important for me to come here and win, focus on the future," she said.
An exuberant Ryan Zeze earned France’s first win of the competition in a season’s best of 20.29.
The noise rose to mark home sprinter Albert Komanski’s late charge to second place in 20.50 ahead of the Italian who ran the anchor leg to earn Olympic men’s 4x100m gold at the Tokyo 2020 Games, Filippo Tortu, third in 20.61.
Nawal Meniker won a close contest with Belgian teenager Merel Maes, who equalled her personal best of 1.92m but lost on countback.
Lieke Klaver, tall and powerful, dominated the women’s 200m, holding off the lingering challenge of Great Britain’s Bianca Williams to win in a personal best of 22.46 - just 0.01 off the championship record her Dutch compatriot Dafne Schippers, the 2015 and 2017 world champion, ran in 2015.
Williams clocked 22.75 ahead of Polyniki Emmanouilidou of Greece, who set a personal best of 22.85 in third.
“To set a personal best of 22.46 is really good but on the other hand, I missed just 0.01 to repeat the Championship record,” Klaver said.
Germany’s European men’s javelin champion Julian Weber, earned full honours with a best of 86.26m.
And Czech Republic’s Nikola Ogrodnikova won the women’s javelin with a best of 61.75m, holding off the challenge of the German who beat her to the European title in Berlin five years ago, Christin Hussong, with Great Britain’s Bekah Walton earning third place with 59.76m, a huge improvement on her personal best of 57.65m.
Mike Rowbottom for European Athletics