My Top 5 Women’s Moments From Berlin

1. Perković Overcomes A Wobble To Make Meet History

Discus thrower supreme Sandra Perković came through to win a record title No. 5. (MARK SHEARMAN)

Sandra Perković won her first European title 8 years ago in Barcelona at the age of 20. Now she created history by becoming the first athlete in history to win 5 European titles in the same event (a feat admittedly made easier with the championships now held every 2 years instead of 4). French steeplechaser Mahiedine Mekhissi would have also pipped her to that accolade by a day had he crossed the finish at Zurich ’14 wearing his vest.

Having won her fifth title, her thoughts turned to winning a prospective No. 6 at Paris ’20—but not before she has the small matter of defending her world title in Doha next autumn. Then there’s that other small matter, the defense of her Olympic title in Tokyo within 13 days of the continental championship (exact schedules for the two meets are not yet set). “I think the next European Championships will be much easier for me because I already managed to make the history with the fifth title,” said the Croatian star who, at 28, could still dominate the event for perhaps another decade.

But despite her unbridled dominance over the last nine years, Perković hasn’t been entirely infallible in championships. She only won her first title in Barcelona with her last throw and she began her Olympic title defense in ’16 with 2 no-throws. She was out of sorts for the first four rounds of the final in Berlin but she nailed her fifth-round throw. “If you know Sandra, you know that she will pull one out sooner or later,” said silver medalist Nadine Müller, who had led until round 5. “From the first to the last attempt it was clear that she would win the gold.”

2. Asher-Smith Propels Herself Into The Big Time

Not since the halcyon days of the early ’80s, when Kathy Cook was competing, had a British female sprinter won an individual medal in a global championships but Dina Asher-Smith will have made the rest of the world sit up after her exploits in Berlin. It was the East Germans who were dominant in Cook’s era but now it is the Jamaicans and the Americans—along with a couple of interlopers from Côte d’Ivoire—who rule the roost. If they weren’t paying attention to events unfolding in Berlin, a quick glance across the world lists will reveal Asher-Smith at =No. 1 in the 100 (10.85) and No. 1 outright in the 200 (21.89). Both times were sizeable British Records and she also anchored the 4×1 to victory in another world-leading mark, 41.88.

“I know this is not the Olympics Games or the World Championships, but I’m still very proud of myself,” she said modestly. Be that as it may, she still beat 2-time world 200 champ—and Europe’s best sprinter over the last 5 seasons—Dafne Schippers in both finals.

Not only did Asher-Smith become the first British athlete in meet history to win 3 titles in the same championships, she is only the third sprinter in European Championships history to win three sprint titles in the same edition. The other two were Katrin Krabbe in ’90 and Petra Vogt in ’69.

3. Thiam Shows Her Mettle To Fend Off An Inspired KJT

Nafi Thiam’s reign in the heptathlon came under threat from an inspired effort by Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who pushed the reigning world and Olympic champion for 5½ events out of the 7. KJT embellished her overnight lead by going out to 21-11½ (6.68) in the long jump which seemed to spur Thiam’s competitive instincts. After a so-so first day, she immediately responded with 21-9 (6.60) before delivering the knockout blow in the javelin—a meet best of 190-0 (57.91). A 100-point deficit was now a 200-point advantage, leaving Johnson-Thompson with a near insuperable task in the 800. The Brit clawed back some of the gap but Thiam had enough of a buffer. Her score of 6816 was still a world-leading mark despite having cleared “only” 6-3¼ (1.91) in the high jump, some 10cm below her heptathlon world best set at Götzis in May.

Thiam was ahead of European Record schedule in Götzis up until the javelin in which she could only manage 154-10 (47.20). Her longtime coach Roger Lespagnard said she has altered her technique since last year’s World Championships in a bid to maximize her potential and while she just missed her Belgian Record of 194-7 (59.32) here, it was her third throw in the sixth event which sealed a hat-trick of major titles at the age of 23.

4. Krause’s Surge Sends The Olympiastadion Into Euphoria

It was probably not just serendipity—but also in large part deliberate timetabling—that the hosts had to wait until the very last individual event for their only gold medal on the track. It came courtesy of the most devastating of sprint finishes from reigning steeplechase champion Gesa-Felicitas Krause and it was greeted with the most deafening and spine-tingling of receptions.

The 26-year-old German slingshotted past Switzerland’s Fabienne Schlumpf over the last waterjump like a woman possessed, opening up a winning gap of nearly 3 seconds on the Swiss recordholder in the space of 150m for a successful defence of her title after frontrunning to gold at Amsterdam ’16.

“I always have a plan A,” said the winner. “But also a plan B or even a plan C. I always watch my opponents, what are they doing and I want to be able to react accordingly.”

5. Mazuronak Bloodied But Not Beaten; Calvin Nearly Does A Rosa Mota

The marathon might not have been one of the most eagerly awaited contests but the race developed into a dramatic and absorbing spectacle between former walker Volha Mazuronak and 26-mile debutante Clémence Calvin. Mazuronak had to overcome a huge nosebleed in the early stages as well as what looked for a time like a potentially indomitable challenge from the French rookie, who was seeking to emulate Portugal’s Rosa Mota from Athens ’82 by winning the European title on her first try at the distance.

The third complication of the race for Mazuronak came in the final kilo as she almost took a wrong turn off the course but the Belarusian—whose expression remained impassive and impervious throughout these tribulations—pegged back her French rival before breaking her resolve and her title hopes with an unmatched acceleration towards the finish-line on the European Mile, one of the successful innovations of the championships.

Mazuronak produced a negative split of 72:22 to win the title in 2:26:22—a surprisingly fast time in very warm conditions—ahead of Calvin, whose silver with a 2:26:28 clocking still represented the most auspicious of debuts at the distance.

“Fortunately, I managed it and it did not affect me in the end. But I know it must have looked horrible,” said Mazuronak on the nosebleed, an incident which went viral on the Internet. □


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