No rain brings gain for Spain as Beitia triumphs
|Ruth Beitia of Spain bagged the first ever high jump gold medal for her
country at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki on Thursday.
Step forward Ruth Beitia, who celebrated victory on countback over Tonje Angelsen, of Norway, after they had both cleared 1.97m but failed at 1.99m.
It was Angelsen's first-attempt failure at 1.89m that proved the difference as Beitia missed that height, clearing first time at 1.92m after 1.85m and leaving the Olympic Stadium as the gold medallist.
She had been so close to a European title in the past but this time gold was hers.
It was not a spectacular competition, with 1.95m proving the barrier for seven of the nine competitors who had remained in the field.
And then 1.97m was not that easy for Beitia and Angelsen who both knocked the bar off in their first two goes before going clear.
Forget 1.99m, that is for another day because Beitia was delighted.
Her sunglasses might have shook every time she took to the air but she sailed over enough to head into the Olympic Games in London as the European champion, and titles can mean so much for the way the mind works.
"I am very very happy," said Beitia. "The weather was just perfect for me and I was lucky to do my jumps without the rain."
Angelsen said: "I had my best competition ever, I controlled my jumping all the time and I knew I would do well. I am not surprised and I am happy."
Beitia will go next to Paris for the Diamond League meeting a week tomorrow having finally won on this major stage having been competing at international championships since 1998.
She is now 33 and while she holds the Spanish records outdoors and in - 2.02m and 2.01m - she now has the title to go with all the years of hard work.
It was back in Annecy, France, in 1998 that Beitia was eighth at the World Junior Championships, finishing 11th at the European Athletics Championships in Munich three years later and then, fittingly, making the podium at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid in 2005 when she won silver - a position she repeated at the following championships in Turin and Paris.
Seventh at the last Olympic Games in Beijing, who knows what might happen in London for a woman who has finally bagged one of the big prizes?
Russian Anna Chicherova, who was not here, is top of the world lists with 2.02m and Beitia, who was already fourth with 1.97m, is in with a shout at the Olympics after matching her season's best tonight.
Bulgaria's Venelina Veneva-Mateeva had been the leading European in the event with 1.95m yet she finished last, clearing 1.80m but not 1.85m and departing early.
There was three-way tie for third with Russian Irina Gordeyeva, Emma Green Tregaro, of Sweden, and Ukraine's Olena Holosha all going no further than 1.92m, their only failures.
But it was Beitia's day, the golden one she has been close to so many times before.