Germany proved an irresistible force on the second day of the European Athletics Team Championships Super League in the Lille Metropole Stadium.
The overnight leaders reclaimed the title they won in 2014 on a day when the hosts revelled in individual wins for Renaud Lavillenie, Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad and a men’s 4x400m team - whose unexpected second place behind Poland in the last final - lifted them onto the podium by one point, at Great Britain’s expense.
The German team held an overnight lead of 16.5 points over Poland - whose initial first day score was adjusted down by one point - and extended the gap by the conclusion of the ninth running of the European Athletics Team Championships Super League, totalling 321.50, with Poland on 295, France on 270 and Britain on 269.
At the other end of the table, Belarus (188.50) and the Netherlands (175) were relegated into the European Athletics Team Championships First League.
Two early disqualifications for Poland - in the women’s 100m hurdles where Karolina Koleczek false-started - and in the men’s 800m where Adam Kszczot’s victory was annulled for stepping off the track, might have been crucial but in the end, even two extra victories would not have altered the overall result. This was the measure of Germany’s consistency.
The hosts, denied the sprinting talents of Jimmy Vicaut and Christophe Lemaitre through injury, ended in buoyant mood with Lavillenie earning a sixth win in his seventh appearance in this competition being cause for most celebration – especially as the world record-holder’s 5.80m clearance restated his credentials as a tour de force ahead of this summer’s IAAF World Championships in London.
Lavillenie underlined once again the old dictum that form is temporary, class is permanent.
Class also told in the 110m hurdles as Spain’s Orlando Ortega pulled clear of the field over the final couple of barriers to win in 13.20, equalling the championship record set in 2014 by world champion Sergey Shubenkov.
In the women's 100m hurdles, Germany's pre-race favourite Pamela Dutkiewicz duly extracted the maximum advantage for the competition leaders by winning in 12.75 ahead of Alina Talay of Belarus (12.91) to make it nine wins from nine races outdoors this summer.
Talay’s compatriot Aliona Dubitskaya won the shot put with 18.39m but these two performances did not prove sufficient to save Belarus from the drop.
The Polish score then took another serious hit when 11 points apparently delivered by Kszczot were annulled as he was disqualified for stepping onto the infield in the back straight of the final lap as he forced his way through to take the lead. Thijmen Kupers thus claimed maximum points for the Netherlands in 1:47.18.
Another overwhelming favourite, Poland’s European and two-time world champion Pawel Fajdek, fouled the first two of his four throws in the hammer, but normal service was resumed in the third round as he produced a winning effort of 78.29m.
The two leading nations were similarly locked at the top in a hugely competitive women’s high jump that was eventually won by Poland’s 2014 joint world indoor champion Kamila Licwinko as she equalled her season’s best of 1.97 before having three unsuccessful attempts at 2.00m.
Germany’s Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch also cleared 1.97m, a season’s best, taking second place on countback ahead of the Czech Republic’s Michaela Hruba, who set a national U20 record of 1.94m.
Jungfleisch's teammate Claudia Salman-Rath earned another victory in the long jump with 6.66m and Max Hess kept up his team’s momentum in the final hour as he claimed maximum points with a triple jump of 17.02m, equalling his season’s best.
After finishing fourth in the previous day’s 1500m, home runner Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, the two-time Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medallist, delivered the second part of his intended double after taking the lead at the bell.
Before winning in 8:26.71 he was chased all the way to the line by Spain’s Sebastian Martos, but assured enough in the closing 30 metres to reach up and display his French vest to the world. Thankfully on this occasion he chose not to remove it and whirl it about over his head, an action which cost him the 2014 European title after a Spanish protest over “unsporting behaviour.”
In another clash between Germany and Poland, 2012 Olympic champion Robert Harting reclaimed his first round lead from Robert Urbanek with an effort of 66.30m that was five centimetres further than the Pole’s best.
No shirt-ripping accompanied this victory, as it famously did in London 2012 - nor were any hurdles on hand to be jumped - but as he pumped his fist, Harting looked like a very satisfied athlete.
Lavillenie had waited until the bar went to 5.55m before entering the fray, taking the lead after a second time clearance.
Poland’s European indoor champion Piotr Lisek passed to 5.65m after two failures at 5.55m but his gamble failed to pay off. Lavillenie and Spain’s Igor Bychkov took their own gamble by passing on 5.65m, but the Spaniard could go no further and full points were guaranteed to the hosts at 5.80m. Clearing 5.91m proved a challenge too far on the day – but Lavillenie is clearly serious about completing his gold medal collection.
Poland won the women’s 4x400m relay in 3:27.60, the fastest time in Europe this season, from Ukraine (3:28.02) and Germany (3:28.47)
Shortly before the men’s relay, where Poland clocked 3:03.86 to hold off France by 0.06, the last individual event – the women’s javelin – came to a dramatic conclusion as world record-holder Barbora Spotakova from the Czech Republic took over the lead with a season’s best of 65.14 that Tatsiana Khaladovich of Belarus, who had thrown 64.60 in the first round, was unable to better.
For Spotakova, and her fellow London 2012 champions Lavillenie and Harting, this was a day for flinging down gauntlets to their younger challengers at the impending World Championships.