Perseverance pays off for Abele who lands European decathlon title

Arthur Abele
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German veteran Arthur Abele was crowned decathlon champion at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships

At the end of a night when several other Germans might have delivered the hosts’ first gold of the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships, 32-year-old Arthur Abele, a battle-scarred veteran of the decathlon, narrowly did.

Even in the moment of victory, as he laboured home eighth in the event’s concluding 1500m, raising his weary arms to mark a job done well enough, he was bumped over the line by the staggering finisher behind him.

Hands on his knees, he couldn’t immediately respond as Berlino the Bear appeared in front of him to drape a German flag over his shoulders and pop a cardboard crown on his head.

But it was a royally deserved reward for the man who has battle through more than his share of injuries, including recently a torn hamstring, and whose previous career high point was second place in the 2015 European Indoor Championships in Prague.

And so he had a stadium to himself, full of home spectators whose hopes of gold had been tantalised and then disappointed until this crowning moment. A dream of a result in an event that, at its outset, had looked set to mark yet another stage on the royal progress of France’s Kevin Mayer.

The world champion’s brainstorm in the second event, where he failed to register a single legal mark having opened the day with a competition-leading personal best of 10.64 in the 100 metres, immediately threw the competition open.

And the withdrawal through injury later on the first day of Belgium’s defending champion Thomas Van Der Plaetsen only increased the intriguing possibilities.

The final action saw Abele defend, and even slightly increase his overall lead to a margin of 110 points as he finished with 8431, with Authorised Neutral Athlete Ilya Shkurenyov taking silver with 8321. Bronze went to the fast-finishing Vitali Zhuk of Belarus, who recorded 8290 to beat Germany’s European U20 champion Niklas Kaul by 70 points.

Britain’s overnight leader Tim Duckworth faded out of contention in the last two events after a standout opening eight events.

Brought up in the United States by British parents, the 22-year-old won the US collegiate title earlier this year with a score that only Daley Thompson and Dean Macey have bettered in a British vest.

But his first day was always likely to be better than his second, - and so it proved, as, after coming home 17th of the 18 finishers in the 1500m, he slipped from silver to fifth place, sportingly seeking out the winner and offering him a hug of which Berlino would have been proud.

Abele had begun the day in silver medal position - 95 points behind Duckworth - although the Brit’s lead was trimmed to 18 points after the first event of the day when the German won the 110m hurdles in 13.94, the fastest of the field.

The discus saw events turning round as Abele moved ahead on 6042 points, with Duckworth dropping to silver on 5989 and Sweden’s Fredrik Samuelsson moving into third place on 5862.

Duckworth battled back into the overall lead with his eighth event, however, taking third place in the pole vault with an effort of 5.10m to total 6930. Shkurenyov moved up to second on 6860 thanks to his winning effort of 5.30, with Abele, who cleared 4.60, dropping to third on 6832.

The German needed something good in the penultimate event of the javelin – and he produced it, winning with 68.10m to go into the final event in gold medal position on 7692 points, 102 clear of Duckworth and 107 ahead of Shkurenyov.