Germany are on course to regain the European Athletics Team Championships title after establishing a 15.50 points overnight lead - despite Olympic javelin champion Thomas Rohler finishing only third in a competition won with an effort of 87.95 from Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch - one of four championship records on the second day in Lille Metropole.
Two other records were set in front of an appreciative crowd at the Lille Metropole Stadium in the concluding events of the women’s and men’s 4x100m, the first being won by Germany in 42.47, the latter going to the Brits in 38.08.
Vadlejch's teammate Tomas Stanek had earlier won the shot put with 21.63m, equalling the mark set in 2010 by Latvia’s Maris Urtans.
After 21 of 40 scheduled events, Germany – who last won this event in 2014 on home soil of Braunschweig - have 166 points, with Poland second on 150.50 and early leaders Britain - whose women’s 4x100m team failed to score after dropping the baton - being lifted to 144.50 by their final flourish.
The hosts, hampered by the loss of top sprinters Jimmy Vicaut and Christophe Lemaitre, stand fourth with 134 but they did claim a win in the women's sprints through Carole Zahi in the women's 100m in 11.19, comfortably ahead of German favourite Gina Luckenkemper in 11.35.
Vadlejch’s third round effort took him into the lead ahead of Greece’s Ioannis Kiriazis, who threw 85.27 in the opening round, improving to 86.33 with his fourth and final effort.
And after an opening mark of 80.57m, Rohler improved to 84.01m, then 84.22m, but it was not to be his day.
In the penultimate individual event, Rohler’s team-mate Kristin Gierisch had earned 10 points for second place in the triple jump behind Greece’s Paraskevi Papahristou, who won with a season’s best of 14.24.
Gesa-Felicitas Krause produced another standout performance on the second day for Germany in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, winning by a straight in 9:27.02, with Britain’s Lennie Waite winning the sprint for second in a season’s best of 9:43.33.
The men’s 400m hurdles, traditionally the first track final of these championships, produced an expected victory for Britain’s Jack Green, who came home in 49.47 ahead of Spain’s Sergio Fernandez, who recorded 49.72, and Poland’s Patryk Dobek, who ran 49.79.
“I felt very comfortable,” he said. “I was ready to run a fast time, but the conditions were very blustery. But the important thing is I’ve got Britain off to a maximum points start. The European Team Championships was the first of my big goals this season – I’ve never run them before.”
Green predicted another maximum points haul from his teammate in the women’s 400m hurdles, Eilidh Doyle, and his confidence was not misplaced. The 2014 European champion and Olympic finalist controlled her race in similar fashion from lane six, winning in a season’s best of 54.60 from Yadisleidy Pedroso from Italy (55.39), and Olena Kolesnychenko of Ukraine (55.51).
Greece’s Olympic pole vault champion Ekaterini Stefanidi waited until 4.60m to come into a competition that by that stage contained only one remaining competitor: Iryna Zhuk of Belarus. While it took her two efforts to clear, a first time clearance of 4.70m by Stefanidi settled the points, a precursor to three unsuccessful attempts to clear a would-be championship record of 4.82m.
The men’s 1500m, a gentle trot until the bell sounded, turned into a 400m tear-up. As home runner Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad moved up to challenge for what he hoped would be the first part of an intended double with the 3000m steeplechase, at which he has won two Olympic silvers, the crowd noise rose in anticipation.
But the race had played perfectly into the hands of Poland’s 800m specialist Marcin Lewandowski, European champion in 2010 and silver medallist last year, who held onto his narrow lead before opening up down the final straight to win in 3:53.40.
Mekhissi-Benabbad said afterwards that he had run injured, but was content to have earned extra points for the team.
Likewise, Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui was in pole position at the bell in the women’s 3000m – and when the race ended, having lengthened her lead despite being chased down the final straight by Germany’s Hanna Klein, who recorded 9:01.64 behind the winner’s 9:01.24.
France’s Olympic discus silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon soon raised France’s slightly flagging hopes as she took over the lead with a third round effort of 62.62m, edging ahead of Nadine Muller of Germany’s early lead of 62.57. It proved enough for victory.
But the loudest home cheer greeted the 2.26m clearance, on his third and final attempt, of French high jumper Mickael Hanany, a performance that won the competition from Marco Fassinotti of Italy and Germany’s Eike Onnen, both of whom got no further than 2.22m.
The absence of world record-holder and Olympic champion Anita Wlodarczyk lowered expectations for Poland in the women’s hammer throw slightly, but Malwina Kopron earned second place for them with 73.06m behind the 74.56m by Hanna Malyshik of Belarus.
A dramatic finish to a relatively pedestrian women’s 800m race saw the Belarus world champion Maryna Arzamasova, who led into the final straight, move from first to seventh as Ukraine’s Olha Lyakhova took the win in 2:03.09 ahead of Italy’s Yusneyi Santiusti, who clocked 2:03.56, and Esther Guerrero of Spain, who finished in 2:03.70.
In the women’s 400m Ukraine’s Olha Zemlyak, who tops this year’s European rankings with 50.89, was run down in the closing stages by Lisanne De Witte of the Netherlands, who won in a personal best of 51.71, to the noisy and orange delight of the Dutch supporters ranged in the stand just past the finish line who also had Dafne Schippers to cheer for in the 4x100m.