Serbia’s Ivana Vuleta made a flying start in her bid to win a fourth long jump title at the European Athletics Indoor Championships, soaring to a European lead of 6.98m in qualification at the Atakoy Arena in Istanbul on Saturday morning (4).
That was the second longest jump in the world this year, her one-and-done showing making a statement to her rivals that she is poised to re-establish her dominance at this event. But she likely won’t have it all her own way, given Germany’s Malaika Mihambo went out to 6.87m in the third round, having started with 6.41m and followed it up with 6.62m.
“In the final, I want to be the best version of myself,” said Vuleta. “I am in the running for my fourth indoor medal which is very special for me. I expect to jump over seven metres and I believe that will be needed for the gold.”
Mihambo said qualification was “a bit of a struggle” due to issues with her approach. “It reminded me of what to do correctly and at the same time, I was telling myself that I can do it and pushed myself to jump far,” she said.
“It was a tough season but I felt better today and I hope to jump further tomorrow. Every year is different and life also happens off the track. You take that also sometimes with you.”
Sweden’s Khaddi Sagnia (6.74m) and Great Britain’s Jazmin Sawyers (6.71m) were next best, with Switzerland’s Annik Kalin (6.70m) and Italy’s Larissa Iapichino (6.66m) the others to hit the automatic mark of 6.65m. Portugal’s Evelise Veiga and Romania’s Alina Rotaru-Kottmann also advanced with 6.53m and 6.52m respectively.
But one notable non-qualifier was Milica Gardasevic. The former European U20 champion, who recently beat Vuleta for the Serbian indoor title with 6.90m, missed out by one place and by one centimetre with 6.51m.
Mayer in control as Ehammer’s challenge expires
Kevin Mayer made an impressive start in the heptathlon, the world decathlon record-holder equalling his PB in the 60m with 6.85, then jumping a season’s best of 7.41m in the long jump and throwing 15.81m in the shot put, which put him atop the standings with 2689 points.
That puts him on course to break his European heptathlon record of 6479, set when winning gold at these championships in 2017.
Barring calamity in the remaining events, he should coast to his third European indoor title, given his chief rival in Istanbul, Simon Ehammer of Switzerland, bowed out of the competition after fouling three times in the long jump, having started his day with a 6.80 clocking in the 60m.
Mayer’s closest pursuer is currently Estonia’s Hans-Christian Hausenberg on 2651 points followed by Germany’s Manuel Eitel (2616). Spain’s Jorge Urena, the 2019 champion, is currently sixth on 2474 points after a 6.96 60m, 7.25m long jump and 13.58m shot put.
Estonia’s Maicel Uibo is ninth on 2398 points, but should power up through the standings during the latter part of the competition.
In the men’s 60m heats, defending champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy breezed into the semifinals with a composed, classy victory, the Olympic 100m champion going full gas to about 40 metres before coasting to the line in 6.57. There were also wins for Great Britain’s Reece Prescod (6.60), Slovakia’s Jan Volko (6.62), Raphael Boujo of the Netherlands (6.59) and Sweden’s Henrik Larsson (6.62).
In the women’s 60m hurdles, Nadine Visser of the Netherlands was the quickest qualifier, clocking 7.88 to win her heat. World indoor champion Cyrena Samba-Mayela of France ran 7.99 to win her heat, while Finland’s Reetta Hurske, the arguable gold medal favourite, was also impressive, winning her heat in 7.93 ahead of Mette Graversgaard, who set a Danish record of 7.96. Switzerland’s Ditaji Kambundji clocked 8.02 to win the final heat just ahead of Ireland’s Sarah Lavin (8.03).
Switzerland’s Jason Joseph was quickest in the first round of the men’s 60m hurdles, clocking 7.61 to win the opening heat. There were also wins for France’s Just Kwaou-Mathey (7.63), Spain’s Enrique Llopis (7.63) and Italy’s Paolo dal Molin (7.71). France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, a four-time European indoor medallist, was a shock elimination after finishing fourth in his heat in 7.79.
In the men’s pole vault qualification, five men soared over the automatic height of 5.75m: Greece’s Emmanouil Karalis, Germany’s Torben Blech, Belgium’s Ben Broeders, Italy’s Claudio Michel Tecchi and France’s Ethan Cormont. The other four to advance, all with a best of 5.65m, were Norwegian duo Sondre Guttormsen and Pal Haugen Lillefosse, Poland’s Piotr Lisek and Germany’s Bo Kanda Lita Baehre.
Menno Vloon of the Netherlands was the highest-profile casualty, exiting with a best of 5.55m, having cleared 5.91m a little over a week ago. “I had difficulty falling asleep for three days, and last night I only slept for a few hours, so I was not very focused,” he said. “Before today, I was questioning if I should even compete. The warming-up felt great, but during the qualification I could feel the lack of sleep.”
Meanwhile, showing no signs of a hangover after his 1500m victory on Friday night, Jakob Ingebrigtsen stayed on course for a second successive 1500m-3000m double with a facile victory in the heats of the men’s 3000m, the Norwegian coasting across the line and into Sunday’s final with a clocking of 7:56.57.
Given the mediocre time of that first heat, those in the second heat had a clear advantage in knowing what they needed to run, and they sensibly shared pacing duties, with nine of the 10 competitors advancing, led home by Serbia’s Elzan Bibic (7:50.21) and 2017 champion Adel Mechaal (7:50.69).
Cathal Dennehy for European Athletics