Emmanouil Karalis almost capped off the inaugural European Youth Championships with the second world youth best of the four day competition.
Along with heptathlete Alina Shukh, the 16-year-old from Greece was tipped as one of the athletes who could rewrite the record books in the Georgian capital. A gusting wind proved a hindrance for the long jumpers but the conditions improved markedly towards the end of the session and four of the top five vaulters came away with lifetime bests.
The only vaulter who didn’t come away with a lifetime best was Karalis, although a gold medal was more than adequate compensation. The world youth bronze medallist cleared 5.40m and 5.45m on his first attempts to seal the title ahead of Germany’s Bo Kanda Lita Baehre, who cleared 5.30m before attempting 5.40m and 5.45m in vain.
Karalis raised the bar to 5.56m and after two forgettable attempts, the favourite missed it by a whisker on his third. Maybe he will get it when he travels to Bydgoszcz next week for the IAAF World Junior Championships?
It has been sixteen years since Trine Hattestad won the Olympic javelin title in Sydney but Norway has another emerging thrower on the women’s side in Arianne Duarte Morais. After leading qualifying with 57.51m, the 17-year-old then surpassed Sofi Flink’s European youth best with 60.89m in the second round to move to third on the world all-time youth rankings.
It was a good night for the Brits on the last session in Tbilisi. It was especially good if your last name was ‘Mills’.
The long jumpers were buffered by strong headwinds but the distances were respectable given this handicap. Jumping against a headwind in excess of two metres per second, Holly Mills went out to 6.19m in the third round which only came under pressure when Maja Bedrec - who led qualifying with 6.27m - produced her best jump in the last round.
The distance flashed up as the same as Mills’ leading mark but the Brit claimed the title by virtue of a better second jump - 6.09m to 6.07m.
Fifteen minutes later, George Mills scored a gun-to-tape victory in the boys’ 800m final. The 17-year-old kept something in the tank after covering the first lap in 54.81 to fend off the Italian duo of Andrea Romani and Simone Barontini with victory in a lifetime best of 1:48.82 ahead of Romani (1:49.58) and Barontini (1:49.78).
Sport is very much in Mills’ genes: the 800m champion is the son of former England right-back Danny Mills.
British athletes were going for a clean sweep of middle distances title but the front-running Sabrina Sinha was narrowly denied in the girls’ 1500m by Delia Sclabas. The Swiss had already won the 3000m but the 15-year-old still had plenty of pace in her legs as she sprinted to her second title in a PB of 4:22.51 with Sinha (4:23.10) and Erin Wallace (4:28.17) taking silver and bronze respectively.
Sclabas might be a new name to the rest of Europe but she has been touted as a top prospect domestically for a few years and for good reason as well. She ran 35:04 for 10km at the age of 13.
Pre-race favourite Viivi Lehikoinen duly won the 400m hurdles but the Finn might have been surprised to be pushed so hard bearing in mind her lifetime best was more than one second faster than the rest of the field.
Lehikoinen, who won the European Youth Olympic Festival in Tbilisi last summer, claimed her second continental title in the space of twelve months in 58.28 ahead of the fast-finishing Swiss Yasmin Giger (58.39).
The boys’ 400m hurdles was arguably the best race of the championships. Spain’s pre-race favourite Aleix Porras went out aggressively and built up a substantial lead with two barriers remaining but Italy’s Alessandro Sibilio, who beat Porras in the semi-final, clawed back the deficit and pipped the Spaniard on the line.
Sibilio, who lowered his PB from 52.78 to 52.22 in the semi-final, took nearly another second off his lifetime best to claim the title in an Italian youth record of 51.46 ahead of Porras (51.56) and Germany’s Emil Agyekum (51.80).
Georgios Koniarakis claimed a rare gold medal for Cyprus in the boys’ discus final. His three valid throws - 61.94m, 62.16m and 61.80m - were all in excess of the runner-up and his last throw might have challenged his lifetime best of 63.96m if the red flag wasn’t raised.
There was a dramatic finish to the decathlon with Germany’s Manuel Wagner making up more than a 100 point deficit on Belgium’s Jorg Vanlierde in the 1500m. Vanlierde excelled in the pole vault and still led by 103 points after the javelin but Wagner - who was by far the faster on paper - finished nearly 200 metres ahead of the labouring Belgian ito claim the title in 7382 to Vanlierde’s 7311.
However, Belgium did claim gold and bronze in the 2000m steeplechase courtesy of Tim van de Velde (5:53.77) and Remi Schyns (5:55.06).
In blustery conditions, Sweden’s Maja Nilsson cleared a lifetime best of 1.82m to win the girls’ high jump title ahead of Lithuania’s Urte Baikstyte, who cleared 1.79m. The triple jumpers also had to contend with a strong headwind but France’s Martin Lamou still surpassed the 16m line with his winning jump of 16.03m.
To round off the programme, France and Italy won the girls’ and boys’ relay medleys in 2:08.48 and 1:52.78 respectively.
Britain topped the medal table with five gold medals and thirteen in total ahead of Germany with four gold medals and Italy, Greece and France with three apiece.
The 2018 European Youth Championships will be held in Gyor, Hungary.