Finland’s Saga Vanninen added more than 400 points to her lifetime best to win the heptathlon title on the second day of the Tallinn 2021 European Athletics U20 Championships on Friday (16).
Vanninen had never broken the 6000 point-barrier prior to this week but the Finn amassed a tremendous score of 6271 points across the seven events. Her score was the best in the world at U20 level this year and Vanninen moves to ninth on the world U20 all-time list ahead of the likes of reigning world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson and reigning world U20 champion Niamh Emerson.
Vanninen could make further inroads on the record books next year. She only turned 18 in May and remains eligible for junior competitions all the way through to the end of 2022.
“I would be happy for any medal but this is like a dream come true,” said Vanninen whose score in Tallinn puts her fourth on the Finnish all-time list behind Satu Ruotsalainen (6404 points), Tiia Hautala (6369 points) and Maria Huntington (6339 points).
Vanninen had amassed a comfortable overnight lead in the heptathlon and she embellished her advantage with excellent individual performances in the first two events on the second day. Vanninen smashed her lifetime best in the long jump with 6.34m - the longest jump of the day - before throwing the javelin more than four metres further than anyone else with 47.01m.
And while the gold medal was all but assured prior to the final event, Vanninen concluded her competition with her fourth individual lifetime best, posting a 2:24.62 clocking in the 800m.
Vanninen secured the title by more than 300 points from Sofie Dokter from the Netherlands (5878 points) while combined events powerhouse Germany took third and fourth courtesy of Marie Dehning (5778 points) and Serina Reidel (5730 points).
Home favourite Pippa Lotta Enok finished fifth for hosts Estonia with 5634 points in a tremendously high quality competition in which the first ten in the overall standings all set lifetime bests.
The second evening session in Tallinn was also highlighted by two dramatic field event finals.
France’s Erwan Konate went into the final round in gold medal position with a world U20 leading jump of 7.91m but he was shunted down into the bronze medal position over the course of the next eight jumps.
Oliver Koletzko led the world U20 list prior to Tallinn and the German regained the ascendency as he soared to a lifetime best of 7.98m with his last jump of the competition. Konate’s teammate Bryan Mucret also produced a sixth round lifetime best of 7.92m to displace him from the silver medal position.
“The atmosphere and my teammates were pushing me further, and it all helped me to focus and make it in the last attempt. Honestly, I do not know how I managed it. I will analyse it later in the video but now I am just full of emotions. I want to enjoy this moment - my first big international championships and a gold medal,” said Koletzko.
Despite moving down two places in the sixth round, Konate - whose last jump of 7.78m proved insufficient to improve his position - was sporting and gracious in defeat.
“The competition was very very crazy. Oliver, the German boy is an incredible guy. The three of us are still very young and the competition between the three of us was intense,” he said.
“We jump high and far, but we can get even better. I was in the lead before the last jump, so watching Oliver and Bryan do their best jumps, was definitely stressful. But I´m proud to lose to them, they were better today and I'm still super satisfied with my result and the bronze medal.”
The future of Polish hammer throwing looks in good hands at Dawid Pilat won the title with a last gasp sixth round effort of 79.59m, a Polish U20 record.
Pilat led the competition with 79.20m in the fifth round but Germany’s world U20 leader Merlin Hummel eclipsed that mark with his last throw of the competition which landed at 79.32m.
But Pilat kept his cool under pressure with the last throw of the final as he regained the lead in a thrilling and seesawing finale.
He said: “The last throw - that was like from a fairy tale. It was a very exciting competition until the very end and maybe nobody expected anything like that to happen. After the German threw the last attempt, I knew I had to give it all and try my best.
“Nothing is impossible until the very last attempt in the competition. I knew I could do it and wanted to stay focused until the end.”
Full results here.