European Championships Thursday — Step 1 Complete For Warholm

Karsten Warholm finally shook off Yasmani Copello in the final straight. (MARK SHEARMAN)

Berlin, Germany; August 09—Another warm day at the European Championships found the locals going happy after a 4-medal haul, although the biggest star of the night was a Norwegian.

Karsten Warholm’s quest for a 400H/400 double got off to a great start with a barriers gold, although he got just about all he could handle from Yasmani Copello, the Cuban-turned-Turk. Warholm went out strongly in lane 6, but two corridors inside him Copello kept stride throughout. The pair rose almost simultaneously over the two final barriers, with reigning world champ Warholm proving the stronger on the run-in as both produced national records, running 47.64 and 47.81. Outside Warholm, in lanes 7 & 8 a similar battle was waged for bronze between Thomas Barr and Ludvy Vaillant, the Irishman (48.31) prevailing over the Frenchman (48.42 PR) after the final obstacle.

Said the winner, who still has the flat 400 final to come, “This was fantastic! After my World title I am European champion now! It sounds like where I should be. It feels so good; I am so happy. It was a tough race. I had enough to give on the last 100m. I am so pleased that it went my way. This was my main race. I will take some time off and see what tomorrow will bring.” Copello, who was escorted away by medical personnel, later said, “I really don’t know what happened, but I fell really ill straight after the race. I honestly thought I was going to die.”

Perhaps no other event on the entire program held as much interest for the crowd as did the men’s javelin, what with the German squad featuring a trio of 300-footers. They didn’t get a magical podium sweep but left plenty happy after a 1-2 by Thomas Röhler (293-6/89.47) and Andreas Hofmann (287-5/87.60). Röhler fouled his first attempt, but took the lead with 288-9 (88.02) on his second and never looked back, getting his big mark in round 3 and finishing off with another good enough to win, 288-5 (87.90). The locals also went home happy about a pair of hurdle medals, Pamela Dutkiewicz (12.72) and Cindy Roleder (12.77) finishing 2-3 behind Elvira Herman of Belarus (12.67). (as this article was posted, the 100H results were under protest and not yet final)

In the women’s vault, favored Katerína Stefanídi passed the first three heights, not entering until the bar was at 15-3 (4.65), which she scaled on first attempt. Highly rated Anzhelika Sidorova passed that height after having shared the lead through 14-11 (4.55). The Russian passed 15-3 and then reentered the fray at 15-5 (4.70), where Stefanídi passed, as did Briton Holly Bradshaw. It took Sidorova all three attempts to make the bar, with Stefanídi teammate Nikoléta Kiriakopoúlou taking the lead with her first-try success.

The next height was 15-7 (4.75) with just the four remaining. With Sidorova now passing, Kiriakopoúlou led off with a make to stay in the lead. Briefly, as Stefanídi stayed perfect on the day with a first-try make. Bradshaw cleared on her final shot and the bar rose to 15-9 (4.80). Kiriakopoúlou and Sidorova missed, but Stefanídi—with a very smooth clearance—did not, and then Bradshaw failed. On second time around Kiriakopoúlou moved into 2nd with a make, followed by misses for Sidorova and Bradshaw, who were also unsuccessful on the final attempts.

A Greek 1-2 ensured, Stefanídi and Kiriakopoúlou proceeded to 15-11 (4.85) to final their order. This was career meeting No. 36 between the two, with Stefanídi—distinctive as usual with her signature knee socks, one of blue, one of white— raising her lead to 24-12 as she was successful on her third try after Kiriakopoúlou went out. The 28-year-old Stefanídi, an NCAA champion in her Stanford days, closed the day with three misses at a year-leading 16-3¼ (4.96). “I came here with a completely different mentality,”said the winner, “as I had never had to defend a title before, so it was very stressful.”

A heavily-tatted, sunglass-wearing Ramil Guliyev sparkled in the men’s 200. The 28-year-old Azerbaijani-turned-Turk ran a very strong turn out of lane 6 and had a lead of a couple of strides entering the straight. He just kept powering away, crossing the line with the fastest low-altitude time in European history, 19.76, clipping 0.12 off his PR. “This is a fast track, great audience, great conditions. I really enjoyed this moment and I have to say big thank you to all fans supporting us,” he said.

French steepler Mahiedine Mekhissi, unlike the ’14 EC, kept his shirt on as he crossed the line and this time easily kept gold after an 8:31.66 romp. With a double in the 5000 planned, he held his homestretch celebration to pointing at the “France” lettering on his jersey.

The first day of the women’s heptathlon found favored Nafi Thiam trailing Katarina Johnson-Thompson by 87 points, as the Briton moved into the lead with a 22.88 in the 200. Second-day projections still see the Belgian likely to win, but the Briton isn’t going to go quietly.

Thursday’s Medal Winners

Men’s 200
Ramil Guliyev (Turkey), Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (Great Britain), Alex Wilson (Switzerland)

Mahiedine Mekhissi (France), Fernando Carro (Spain), Yohanes Chiappinelli (Italy)

400 Hurdles
Karsten Warholm (Norway), Yasmani Copello (Turkey), Thomas Barr (Ireland)

Thomas Röhler (Germany), Andreas Hofmann (Germany), Magnus Kirt (Estonia)

Women’s 100 Hurdles
Elvira Herman (Belarus), Pamela Dutkiewicz (Germany), Cindy Roleder (Germany)

Pole Vault
Katerína Stefanídi (Greece), Nikoléta Kiriakopoúlou (Greece), Holly Bradshaw (Great Britain)

Finals on tap for a very busy Friday: men’s 400, 1500, 110H; women’s 800, 400H, HJ, TJ, JT, Hept.