European-leader Karsten Warholm admitted he was expecting “a safe race” before he looked at the start lists for the European Athletics Team Championships First League in Vaasa but the line-up in the 400m hurdles wouldn’t look out of place in a European Championships final.
Three of the top six finishers from the Olympic Games last summer were in action this afternoon and all of them made it through the heats without any problems. The fastest qualifier was 2014 European champion Kariem Hussein from Switzerland with 49.73, ahead of Olympic sixth-placer Rasmus Magi from Estonia (49.92) with Warholm easing down after his customary fast start to finish third in 50.25.
The second heat was won by Olympic fourth-placer Thomas Barr from Ireland in 50.25 from Olympic bronze medallist and European champion Yasmani Copello from Turkey in 50.61.
With such depth of talent on show in Vaasa, it will almost certainly take a stadium record - currently held by Czech Republic’s Jiri Muzik at 49.39 since 2001 - to ensure maximum points tomorrow afternoon. A sub-49 clocking is also a likelihood in good conditions.
It's gonna be rapid https://t.co/oepRPMPnUB
— Thomas Barr (@TomBarr247) June 23, 2017
Switzerland could even push for promotion into the European Athletics Team Championships Super League for the first time and two of their other key prospects on the track looked in good shape this afternoon. Lea Sprunger was the fastest qualifier in the women’s 400m in 53.12 while Petra Fontanive eased through to the 400m hurdles final with 56.92 ahead of American-based Norwegian Amalie Iuel in 56.51.
But for Bulgaria, their prospects of staying in the First League were dealt a sizeable blow when the very experienced Ivet Lalova-Collio was disqualified from the 100m after a false start. However, she did return to the track later that afternoon to qualify for the 200m final in 23.68 - the second fastest time of the day behind Portugal’s Lorene Bazolo in (23.62).
Teammate David Lima equalled his season’s best of 20.67 in the 200m heats while 17-year-old Finn Samuel Purola improved his Finnish U18 record to 20.85 to qualify for the final along with pre-event favourite Ramil Guliyev from Turkey in 20.88.