Championship records in the women’s and men’s 400m hurdles fell at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships tonight (19) as Femke Bol of the Netherlands completed a unique double in 52.67 and Norway’s Olympic champion and world record-holder Karsten Warholm, injured for much of the season, retained his title in 47.12.
Having won the European women’s 400m title on Wednesday in a Dutch record of 49.44, Femke Bol finished 20 metres clear in her favoured event of the 400m hurdles, crossing in a championship record of 52.67. There were huge celebrations for Ukraine as Viktoriya Tkachuk and Anna Ryzhykova took silver and bronze in 54.30 and 54.86 respectively.
The 22-year-old from Amersfoort, who had said before competition began that this could be a rare chance for go for this rarely attempted double, now has a major outdoor gold to accompany the Olympic bronze and world silver she has won in the space of the last year.
Warholm, sitting next to her at the pre-championship press conference, had jokingly wished her good luck attempting a double that had eluded him in Berlin four years earlier, although he had added: “I think she can pull it off. You need to be very fit, and she is right now.”
Bol started solidly before turning the screw in the second half of the race, an irresistible force en route for glory.
“Winning this gold medal is a big relief.” She said. “It was a great race for me. I am very surprised to achieve such a fast time. I was very hard mentally to race the 400m without hurdles. I am so proud to achieve the double.
“I will never do the double again. Well, maybe. Never say never! I knew that if nothing strange happens I would get this medal. But this race was pretty hard. It was not easier than the 400m flat.”
Bol could potentially win her third gold medal of the championships tomorrow as the Dutch team headed by Bol and her trainiung partner Lieke Klaver have excellent prospects in the 4x400m final.
Warholm proves unstoppable once again in the 400m hurdles
Warholm, who produced the race of races at last summer’s Olympic Games as he earned gold in a huge world record of 45.94, managed just one hurdle in his first race of the season at the Rabat Diamond League meeting on 5 June before pulling up with a hamstring tear.
Characteristically, after intensive rehab - much of which was completed in Munich - he put himself into the fire at last month’s World Athletics Championships where reached the final, and reached the halfway point in title contention before his lack of preparation told and he slipped to seventh in 48.42.
A month on, a month better prepared, and Warholm was ready to take on a field that included three hugely menacing French talents including Wilfried Happio of France, who ran a personal best of 47.41 in missing a world medal by one place in Eugene.
He seized the race in habitual fashion, going for broke, hoping broke didn’t happen – and it didn’t. He turned into the straight ahead, and pushed on, as in previous days, to open a big lead and an impressive winning time of 47.12 to finally take ownership of the championship record which had previously stood to Harald Schmid at 47.48 since Athens 1982.
Happio took silver in 48.56, with bronze going to Turkey’s Yasmani Copello in 48.78 but only just with fourth and fifth placers Ludvy Vaillant from France and Germany's Joshua Abuaku both clocking 48.79.
“A European gold medal is huge,” Warholm said at trackside. “Now for German beers!”
Graciously, Happio commented: “I am over the moon with this medal. Before coming here I had the best time in Europe, so I thought that I was going to be on the podium. Karsten was injured but I knew he would come back and win here in Munich. For me, I had quite a lot of races this year, so I was a bit tired. But I still achieved a good time.”
Topi Raitanen earned Finland a second athletics gold following Wilma Murto’s pole vault victory on Wednesday with an equally inspired performance in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
Raitanen, eighth at the Olympics but unable to qualify at last month’s World Championships because of a stomach upset, made a decisive move with 200 metres to overtake Italy’s Ahmed Abdelwahed and Osama Zoghlami, the latter of whom had led for much of the race in tandem with his twin brother Ala.
Gritting his teeth, the 26-year-old from Tampere gained significantly on the final water jump and last obstacle before pulling clear to win in 8:21.80, with Abdelwahed taking silver in 8:22.35 and Zoghlami earning bronze in 8:23.44, with Spain’s Daniel Arce fifth in 8:25.00.
Raitanen follows in the footsteps of Jukka Keskisalo who last won this title for Finland in Gothenburg 2006.
Full results here.