On a night when Yaroslava Machuchikh claimed an inspirational high jump gold for her stricken country - as a Ukrainian high jumper who has been training in temporary refuge in Bavaria - Julian Weber emerged from a humdinger of a javelin showdown with a hard-earned victory that helped the host nation towards the top of the medal table in the concluding session of the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships.
It took a win in the final event of the championships - the women’s 4x100m relay - for Germany to trump Great Britain with a seventh gold medal but it was Weber’s thrilling success that drew the home team level with their continental rivals.
It has taken time for the 27-year-old from Mainz to become the main man even in his homeland, grafting away in the shadows as Johannes Vetter and Thomas Rohler have led the way - the former with his world title in London in 2017 and the monster 97.76m throw that propelled him to second on the world all-time list, the latter with his Olympic success in Rio in 2016 and his European Championships triumph in Berlin two years later.
Fourth in the Olympic final in Tokyo last year, and at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last month, Weber finally made it on to a major championship rostrum in Munich, and as the gold medal winner.
Fuelled by the roars of the home crowd, he took the lead in the first round with 83.05m but lost it in round two when Olympic silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic, who had fouled his opening effort, threw down the gauntlet, landing his javelin at 87.28m – much to the delight of his coach in the stands - world record-holder Jan Zelezny, three-time Olympic champion but never a winner of this title.
Weber dug deep and unleashed an emphatic response in the fourth round, nailing the 87.66m effort that was to win him the gold.
To their credit, the Munich crowd gave his rival generous support. Vadlejch looked like he might threaten the lead with a huge final throw but he was unable to keep himself on the right side of the line.
Weber could afford the luxury of passing on a sixth attempt, the gold already secure. Finn Lassi Elelatalo took bronze with 86.44m, a lifetime best.
“I still cannot grasp what I have done,” said Weber. ”I cannot believe it. I am on cloud nine. I have been longing for this medal for a very long time. I will celebrate here in Munich, in this stadium. The Munich crowd was really amazing. It was amazing to do a lap of honour here. I will never forget it.
“I did not do any warm-up throws because I had so much pain in my back. My physios and the doctors still did a great job. With this pain, I guess there was less pressure for me. I guess this was a key factor.”
Mahuchikh doubles Ukraine’s tally with expected high jump gold
For the second time in five months, Mahuchikh achieved an emotional high jump gold for her country, adding the European title to the world indoor crown she gained in Belgrade in March less than two weeks after fleeing Ukraine.
Since then, the world outdoor silver and Olympic bronze medallist has been training at Erlangen, a Bavarian town less than two hours away from Munich by car.
At the age of 20, Mahuchikh might have been a veteran victor in the Bavarian capital as she coolly passed at 1.93m before securing gold with a modest 1.95m - had Marija Vukovic not secured silver with a third time clearance at the same height.
That clearance earned the 30-year-old Montenegrin bronze, her country's first ever medal as an independent nation at the European Athletics Championships, ahead of two teenagers who had finished on the podium at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali less than three weeks prior.
In the final in Colombia 19-year-old Britt Weerman of the Netherlands won silver and 17-year-old Serbian Angelina Topic bronze, the elder edging second place on countback after both cleared 1.93m.
This time – in an historical nod to Munich 1972, when Ulrike Meyfarth won home Olympic gold at 16 - it was the hugely talented Topic who came out of top on countback after first-time successes at 1.93m. Having registered first-time failures at 1.86m and 1.90m, Weerman found herself out of the medal frame in fourth.
Just 26 days past her 17th birthday, Topic boasts pedigree Serbian track and field stock. Her father Dragutin Topic famously won European high jump gold in Split as a teenager in 1990. Her mother Biljana also won bronze in the triple jump at the 2009 World Athletics Championships.
If the high jump final was a glimpse into the future, though, the present belonged to Mahuchikh with a Ukrainian gold in Munich to match the one won in emphatic fashion by Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk in the triple jump on Friday night.
“This is my first gold medal at an outdoor major championships and I would like to dedicate it to the Ukrainian people,” said Mahuchikh, who, like Vukovic, was unsuccessful when the bar was raised to 1.97m.
“I left my home in March and since then it has been difficult. Since then, I have wanted to do something for my country.
“Our people wait for good news. It will be a pleasure for them to see my gold medal. I want to show that we are strong people, a strong nation, and that we can fight until the end.
“I love this medal. I want to thank the Ukrainian team and all the people who supported me. I hope to go back home in September. I miss my home, my friends and my father.”
Full results here.