Golden night for the defending champions

Golden night for the defending champions
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Great Britain's Martyn Rooney defended his 400m title ahead of Pavel Maslak (CZE) and Liemarvin Bonevacia (NED).

On an evening of sensational drama at the 23rd European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, Anita Wlodarczyk, Martyn Rooney, Libania Grenot and Sandra Perkovic all brilliantly retained their titles.

It was track and field at its finest, with drama, excitement and some amazing performances in whatever corner you looked of the Olympic Stadium.

Wlodarczyk rarely fails to deliver and so that proved again with a sensational series of throws as she completed a European hat-trick.

Even the first round 72.82m would have been enough for gold for the Polish star, who then improved with every throw with 75.73m, 77.11m, 77.65m, 78.12m and, finally, 78.14m.

It was a stunning show as she beat the woman she replaced as world record-holder, Germany's Betty Heidler, who was second with 75.77m ahead of Azerbaijan's Hanna Skydan (73.83m).

"I am very happy with my third European title," said Wlodarczyk. "It was a test and I am really satisfied that each throw tonight went further."

Rooney had waited so long for an individual gold before his 400m glory in Zurich and now he follows in the footsteps of fellow Briton Roger Black, who was the last man to successfully defend this crown.

It was a final packed with experience, and including the last three champions, with the Czech Republic's Pavel Maslak (2012) and Belgium's Kevin Borlee (2010), but Rooney played it perfectly.

He ran a steady opening 200m and only started to make his mark in the last 150m, hitting the home straight ahead with the Netherlands' Liemarvin Bonevacia coming through on the outside and Maslak moving closer.

But Rooney had enough left in him to hold on to win in 45.29 from Maslak (45.36) and Bonevacia (45.41) with Borlée fourth (45.60).

"Roger Black is a good person to follow," said Rooney. "To defend a title is great. Last time I won I was relieved, this time I am delighted."

Within 40 minutes of his triumph, Italy's Grenot was on her lap of honour as she too kept hold of the 400m crown.

Grenot never looked like being beaten, and on the home turn maintained her strength to triumph in 50.73 from France's Floria Guei (51.21) and Great Britain's Anyika Onuora (51.47).

Croatian Perkovic made it four European gold medals in a row - but it was a tough competition for her.

Germany's Julia Fischer led after round two with 65.77m before Perkovic then produced a fourth round 66.03m and an untouchable fifth round 69.97m to seal victory.

Fischer was second with German teammate Shanice Craft (63.89m) in third.

The men's pole vault has a new European champion for the first time since Israel's Aleksandr Averbukh in Gothenburg a decade ago.

In those 10 years the event had been dominated by the French superstar Renaud Lavillenie who was chasing a fourth successive outdoor crown to go with his four indoors.

Beforehand he nominated 5.75m as the height he would enter the final and when that moment arrived, he was the only athlete left in an event hit by a tricky crosswind.

Poland's Roberta Sobera led with 5.60m and he is the gold medallist after Lavillenie failed at his three attempts, the last one seeing him knock the bar off with his right hand after he had just about cleared it.

As the camera panned to the watching Sobera, he put his hands over his face in disbelief probably as he won the title on countback from Jan Kudlicka, of the Czech Republic, and Slovenia's Robert Renner (5.50m).

"The wind was making things very difficult for us tonight," said Lavillenie. "But what frustrates me the most is that during the warm-up I cleared 5.80m without problems. I thought about starting at 5.70m but after the warm-up I was confident that 5.75m would not be a problem."

Sobera said: "I was lucky today. I did not expect the gold but I am very happy."

It was a night to remember for Serbia and Ivana Spanovic as she won her first major outdoor gold medal and her country's first gold at an outdoor European Athletics Championships.

The silver medallist in Zurich, Spanovic now has this title to go with her European indoor glory from Prague last year after she cleared 6.94m in the second round to nail victory from Britain's Jazmin Sawyers (6.86m) and Germany's Malaika Mihambo (6.65m).

After the memorable home glory in Zurich 2014, Kariem Hussein could not repeat the act in the 400m hurdles as Turkey's Yasmani Copello Escobar always had the edge and took gold in 48.98.

Hussein made a brave bid in the home straight but finished third (49.10) as Spain's Sergio Fernandez came through for second (49.06).

Back in Zurich, France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benaddad won 3000m steeplechase gold but then he was disqualified after taking his shirt off in the home straight to celebrate.

This time there was a repeat victory for Mekhissi-Benaddad but just a little wave as he entered the last 100m to regain the gold he won in 2012.

Mekhissi-Benaddad won in 8:25.63 from Turkey's Aras Kaya (8:29.91) and Yoann Kowal (8:30.79), who had 'won' two years ago in place of his French teammate.

Polat Kemboi Arikan regained the 10,000m gold he won in Helsinki 2012 in a duel with Turkish teammate Ali Kaya.

They were side-by-side for much of the second half of the race which came down to a sprint in the end, with Arikan having too much and powering away to triumph in 28:18.52 from Kaya (28:21.42) and Spain's Antonio Abadia (28:26.07).

The excitement is growing overnight in the heptathlon for the host nation with the Netherlands' Anouk Vetter leading France's defending champion Antoinette Nana Djimou by 96 points, 3882 to 3786, with Austrian Ivona Dadic (3715) in third, Vetter was in front after the first session (1984) with Djimou (1953) back in fifth but the Frenchwoman regained control with a shot put personal best of 16.17m to lead after three events with 2892 from Vetter (2891) and Lithuanian Austra Skujyte (2870), the latter winning the discipline with a season's best of 16.31m.

But the 200m saw Vetter end the night with the crowd roaring her on as she won the last heat in 23.89, the quickest of them all, after Djimou (24.92) had finished third in the second race won by Estonian Grit Sadeiko (24.57).

Britain's Morgan Lake, who was third before the evening session, was forced to pull out the competition with a tight hamstring.

The Netherlands have big hopes, too, in the women's 1500m, with Sifan Hassan out to defend her title, and she qualified for the final by winning the first heat in 4:13.45. But she will face stiff competition from Serbian Amela Terzic, the double European Under-23 and European junior 1500m champion, who is now after the senior title and she reached the final by taking the second heat in an impressive 4:09.71.

Poland's Adam Kszczot is another defending champion in the middle distances and he reached the 800m final with the best time of 1:46.32, with his teammate Marcin Lewandowski winning the second race in 1:47.16.