European Mile provides the perfect setting as Storl opens his title defence

European Mile
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The men's shot put qualifying was held in front of a capacity crowd at the European Mile on the Breitscheidplatz on Monday evening

As its title made clear, Day Q – on which the first action of the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships took place – was all about qualifying.

And none was a more popular qualifier than home shot putter David Storl, the 28-year-old policeman who is seeking a fourth consecutive European title.

With the first round of the men’s shot put being showcased in sun-shot splendour alongside the iconic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at the ‘European Mile’ venue which has been established in the city centre specifically for the championships, there was every reason for Storl to rise to the challenge.

To the loud approval of a packed and basking crowd within the arena, and with hundreds more sitting or standing to watch on big screens outside – he became the first automatic qualifier for tomorrow’s final in the Olympic Stadium with a 20.63m throw in his second round, finishing two centimetres ahead of Croatia’s world bronze medallist Stipe Zunic.

But Storl will do well to arrest the progress of the 26-year-old Pole Michal Haratyk, who leads this season’s continental lists with his national record of 22.08m. He was the third best qualifier here with 20.59m.

Authorised Neutral Athlete Aleksandr Lesnoy became the fourth automatic qualifier, surpassing the qualifying line of 20.40m with his second effort of 20.47m.

Earlier his compatriot Maksim Afonin had topped the first qualifying group with a best of 20.33m from Mesud Pezer of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who went out to 20.16m.

Poland’s European indoor champion Konrad Bukowiecki, whose season has been disrupted by a persistent finger injury, also reached the final with a best of 19.89m.

“Today was the first step towards the final, but despite feeling good, I was a bit nervous because this is my home country, my capital,” he Storl. “The crowd is amazing and that helped, too. This year my opponents are very strong, so I have to be careful in the final.”

Haratyk commented: “I am definitely ready to fight although David has an advantage of having the support of his home crowd.

“I am a little nervous about the final as this is a strange setting for me. Today, we competed here in town, but tomorrow, the final will take place in the stadium which I have only visited once before.

"Even though I am ready to throw 22.00m, I feel my team mate, Konrad, could be my strongest opponent.”