TORUŃ, POLAND, March 07 — The final day on the women’s side of the 36th European Indoor Championships produced a pair of world-leading marks, both on the sprint straight: 7.03 by Switzerland’s Ajla De Ponte in the 60 and 7.77 by Nadine Visser of the Netherlands in the 60H.
The 6 finals:
The final was supposed to be close after the semis yielded 8 qualifiers between 7.19 and 7.27. It was anything but. 24-year-old Ajla Del Ponte, running in lane 4, drove out of the blocks powerfully and surged ahead of her competitors, leading them to the line with a massive 0.19 lead. Her world-leading time, 7.03, tied the Swiss Record.
The battle for the remaining medals was ultra close, with three crossing virtually together. Finland’s Lotta Kemppinen edged Jamile Samuel by 0.004 to take the silver, both running 7.22s.
Del Ponte, who had a 7.14 PR coming into the race, cried afterwards, saying, “A lot of emotions right now. I felt that I was going strong. I heard all the Swiss team cheering for me. And just told myself, ‘Run, run, run.’ The last years were tough, so now it is really a good feeling to win this title. I knew I could run 7.03 all season, I had it in the legs. To do it with this margin with so many fast girls is great.”
Medals: 1. Ajla Del Ponte (Switzerland) 7.03 PR, =NR (WL); 2. Lotta Kemppinen (Finland) 7.22; 3. Jamile Samuel (Netherlands) 7.22.
Racing against a much more experienced field, British teen Keely Hodgkinson ran with the confidence of a veteran to become the youngest-ever winner of the meet’s 800. At the start it was Joanna Jóźwik, a 1:57.37 performer outdoors, who grabbed the front. Yet by the 200 Hodgkinson came up to run alongside the Pole.
Through pedestrian laps of 31.10 and 34.22, the Briton stayed to the outside of Jóźwik, often a half-step ahead. Then she struck, casually forcing her way ahead on a third lap that went in 30.29. On the final two go-round, Jóźwik and teammate Angelika Cichocka tried to catch Hodgkinson, but she produced a 28.28 to hold on for the win in 2:03.88.
Rather than having come in with that as a race plan, the young winner admitted she played it by ear. “I didn’t really have too many expectations before the competition, just trying to stay relaxed and get the job done, and that paid off. Before the race I didn’t really have a major plan, I was just thinking of different ways the final could go.”
She added, “I’m over the moon! I’m just 19 and still learning.”
Medals: 1. Keely Hodgkinson (Great Britain) 2:03.88; 2. Joanna Jóźwik (Poland) 2:04.00; 3. Angelika Cichocka (Poland) 2:04.15.
Women’s 60 Hurdles
In a technically beautiful race, Nadine Visser of the Netherlands followed up a near-perfect start with the fastest flight of hurdles by a European since Swede Susanna Kallur broke the World Record in ’08. Clearly leading by the first hurdle, Visser slowly pulled away from Britain’s Cindy Sember (née Ofili) in the adjoining lane, hitting the finish in 7.77.
For Sember, a 7.89 finish tied her ’16 PR that she had already equaled in the semis. And her sister Tiffany Porter snatched the bronze from lane 8 in 7.92, her first international medal in 5 years. The 35-year-old Porter, a pharmacist by trade, also won the distinction of being the first masked track athlete to get on an international podium.
Said Visser, 26, “I am happy and relieved. It is nice to run fast times again. My PB was from some years ago. I secretly hoped to run a time like this and thought that would be fantastic. Now I just did it.”
Medals: 1. Nadine Visser (Netherlands) 7.77 NR (WL); 2. Cindy Sember (Great Britain) 7.89 =PR; 3. Tiffany Porter (Great Britain) 7.92.
Women’s 4 x 400
Leading off with individual 5th-placer Lieke Klaver, the Dutch had no problems in the early going, as Klaver handled British leadoff Zoey Clark, 51.67–51.83. On the second leg, the Dutch situation got a bit more challenging as Poland’s Małgorzata Hołub-Kowalik stormed to the front on the strength of a 51.45 leg, handing off together with Britain as the Netherlands fell to 4th, just behind the German squad.
Up front, Poland dropped back, leaving Britain alone in front, though Dutch No. 3 Lisanne De Witte made the baton back to 2nd with a 52.31 performance. That put individual 400 winner Femke Bol just where she wanted to be. She tore after the Brits, catching anchor Jessie Knight and taking the gold and the ’13 meet record away from Great Britain with a 3:27.15. Her split: 49.99.
“As the last runner I had to give it my all,” said Bol. “I really wanted this gold medal. To win with the team is really special to me.”
Medals: 1. Netherlands 3:27.15 MR (Lieke Klaver 51.67, Marit Dopheide 53.18, Lisanne De Witte 52.31, Femke Bol 49.99); 2. Great Britain 3:28.20 (Zoey Clarke 51.83, Jodie Williams 52.17, Amarachi Pipi 52.62, Jessie Knight 51.58); 3. Poland 3:29.94 (Natalia Kaczmarek 52.55, Małgorzata Hołub-Kowalik 51.45, Kornelia Lesiewicz 53.35, Aleksandra Gaworska 52.59).
Women’s High Jump
Favored Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the silver medalist from the ’19 World Champs, did what she does best, scaling every height with ease until she had clinched her win with a clearance at 6-6¾ (2.00).
“I started this indoor season with 2.02 [6-7½] and I knew I could get better, because we’ve been working on fixing technical errors with my coach. Jumping 2 meters now feels easy,” said the Ukrainian star, still only 19.
“My goal now is the Olympics. I’m hoping for a good competition against Maria Lasitskene there. Before, she used to be my idol, but now the person I’m looking up to is myself.”
The battle for the other medals is the one that featured the drama. At 6-3½ (1.92), Mahuchikh’s teammate Yuliya Levchenko was perfect. So were Ella Junnila of Finland and Daniela Stanciu of Romania. Third Ukrainian Iryna Herashchenko, however, needed all three attempts and sat in 5th.
At 6-4¼ (1.94) Levchenko stayed perfect, tied for the lead at that point with Mahuchikh. Once again, Herashchenko needed three, as did Junnila.
The drama came at the next bar, 6-5 (1.96). First Herashchenko cleared. The next jumper up, Junnila, did as well, for a Finnish Record. Levchenko missed her first, and suddenly saw her standing downgraded from tied for gold to none. Two more misses sealed it. Herashchenko was not through, and followed up with a first-attempt clearance at a PR 6-6 (1.98).
Medals: 1. Yaroslava Mahuchikh (Ukraine) 6-6¾ (2.00); 2. Iryna Herashchenko (Ukraine) 6-6 (1.98) PR; 3. Ella Junnila (Finland) 6-5 (1.96) NR.
Women’s Triple Jump
Undefeated by Europeans this season, 32-year-old veteran Patrícia Mamona was figured by many to be the favorite coming in and after her Portuguese Record 47-8 (14.53) in round 3 she seemed to be on her way to the top of the podium with no close challenger.
But then on her subsequent third-round attempt, Germany’s Neele Eckhardt, who had been 4th, bounded to a PR 47-7¾ (14.52), adding more than a foot to her indoor best and positioning herself just a centimeter from gold.
Feeling perhaps a bit stressed, Mamona fouled her next and responded with a 46-10¾ (14.29) which left her even more stressed. Then in round 6, Spain’s Ana Peleteiro produced a stunning 47-7¾ of her own, moving into the silver position as all three medalists were within a centimeter of each other. When Eckhardt fouled No. 6 (as she had 4 & 5), Mamona, the ’16 Euro Outdoor champ, could finally celebrate her first Indoor win.
“This was amazing,” said the winner, a 2-time NCAA champ while at Auburn, “and I feel even more powerful and confident. Hopefully, it’s just a beginning. I’m taking home a NR and the gold.
Medals: 1. Patrícia Mamona (Portugal) 47-8 (14.53) NR; 2. Ana Peleteiro (Spain) 47-7¾ (14.52); 3. Neele Eckhardt (Germany) 47-7¾ (14.52) PR.