Youngest and oldest: age-defying exploits at the European Championships

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The Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships were highlighted in part by the performances of two exceptionally talented teenagers who both entered the record books for their marvellous exploits in the Olympic Stadium.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen had already made history as a collective with his brothers Henrik and Filip by reaching the 1500m final and the youngest of the triumvirate was to make history in his own right. The youngest competitor in the final by six years, Jakob ran a near perfect tactical race to storm to the 1500m title at the age of 17 years and 324 days.

Describing the way in which he ran, the elder statesman of the Ingebrigtsens Henrik marvelled: 'He was the youngest guy in the field running like he is 10 years older than everybody else!'

Ingebrigtsen was still officially in the U18 ranks when he won 1500m gold in Berlin. In doing so, he became the youngest male athlete to win a European title in championship history, displacing France’s Jimmy Vicaut who helped France to gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona at the age of 18.

One day after winning his second gold medal in the 5000m, it was the turn of Sweden’s Armand Duplantis to electrify the Olympic Stadium. At the age of 18 years and 275 days, Duplantis became the youngest male athlete to win a field event title, as well as the youngest athlete to join the six metre-plus club with memorable first-time clearances at 6.00m and 6.05m.

However, Ingebrigtsen was beaten to the mantle of youngest ever European champion by one year. June Foulds, who sadly passed away earlier this year at the age of 86, was only 16 years and 75 days when she held off the great Fanny Blankers-Koen for Great Britain in the 4x100m relay final at the 1950 European Championships in Brussels.

Foulds also made the podium in the individual 100m with bronze behind Blankers-Koen again and remains the youngest ever medallist in European Championships history.

But the youngest individual champion in European Championships history dates back to Stuttgart 1986 when women’s race walking made its long awaited debut on the championship programme.

Competing over a distance of 10km, Spain’s Mari Cruz Diaz broke the tape in the Neckarstadion at just 16 years and 306 days while Norway’s Kjersti Tysse Platzer - who went on to win Olympic medals in the 20km race walk in 2000 and 2008 - finished eleventh in 1986 at 14 years and 220 days, the youngest ever competitor and top-12 finisher in European Championships history.

At the other end of the spectrum, fellow Brit Jo Pavey won her maiden European title in the 10,000m at the 2014 European Championships in Zurich at 40 years and 326 days to become the oldest woman to win a European title.

Older still was Pavey’s British compatriot Jack Holden who won the marathon title at the 1950 European Championships in Brussels at the age of 43 just a few months after winning the Commonwealth marathon title in Auckland barefoot.

After the race in Brussels, Holden recalled a conversation with the much younger silver medallist Veikko Karvonen from Finland who was only 24. “I can remember Karvonen coming up to me after the race and asking me my age. When I told him he said: ‘But you’re older than my father!’” he said.

At 48 years and 293 days, the oldest athlete to compete at the last edition of the European Athletics Championships in Berlin 2018 was Spain's Jesus Angel Garcia who was making his record seventh successive appearance at the championships since 1994. Garcia has been an ever-present in the 50km race walk since his debut in Helsinki 1994 with his best result a silver medal at the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg.

But the oldest athlete to have competed at the European Championships is the venerable Merlene Ottey who ran for Slovenia in the 4x100m relay in Helsinki 2012 at the age of 52 years and 51 days.

This was Ottey’s final appearance on the major stage some 29 years after she competed in the same stadium at the inaugural World Championships in 1983 and 32 years after she won her first Olympic medal for Jamaica at the 1980 Olympics in the 200m.



Champion - Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) 17y and 324d - 1500m, 2018
Medallist - Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) 17y and 324d - 1500m, 2018
Finalist / top-12 - Miguel Arnau (ESP) 17y and 163d - 4x100m relay, 1974
Competitor - Aykut Ay (TUR) 16y and 332d - 4x100m relay, 2012


Champion - June Foulds (GBR) 16y and 75d - 4x100m, 1950
Medallist - June Foulds (GBR) 16y and 73d - 100m, 1950
Finalist / top-12 - Kjersti Tysse Platzer (NOR) 14y and 220d - 10km race walk, 1986
Competitor - Kjersti Tysse Platzer (NOR) 14y and 220d - 10km race walk, 1986



Champion - Jack Holden (GBR) 43y and 163d - Marathon, 1950
Medallist - Vaino Muinonen (FIN) 47y and 235d - Marathon, 1946
Finalist / top-12 - Edgar Bruun (NOR) 49y and 23d - 50km race walk, 1954
Competitor - Oleksandr Dryhol (ISR) 50y and 74d - Hammer, 2016


Champion - Jo Pavey (GBR) 40y and 326d - 10,000m, 2014
Medallist - Yekaterina Podkopayeva (RUS) 42y and 64d - 1500m, 1994
Finalist / top-12 - Ellina Zvereva (BLR) 45y and 267d - Discus, 2006
Competitor - Merlene Ottey (SLO) 52y and 51d - 4x100m, 2012

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