Day 4 - Morning session round-up: Sandells thrills home fans, Nana Djimou leads heptathlon field
At first it was just a small cheer, then it grew and by the time the race had reached the home straight Finland’s Niclas Sandells had more than just adrenaline driving him into the final of the 1500m.
A morning of outstanding performances was topped by the crowd having so much to celebrate as their star middle-distance man battled to the front to win his semis in a thrilling heat with a tremendous performance.
He had gradually made his mark throughout but then he went from seventh to fourth with 80m to go and as he gradually edged his way ahead, his quicker steps were greeted by a rising blast from the supporters.
Sandells did not disappoint as he triumphed in 3:45.74 from Germany’s Florian Orth in 3:45.87 with Spain’s David Bustos third in 3:46.12.
His personal best of 3:38:08 is from the Bislett Games in Oslo this year and while he will have to go faster than today to be among the medals, if the support is the same, you suspect he will.
There was not quite so much excitement in the opening semi-final which was won by Austria’s Andreas Vojta in 3:41.24, beating Ilham Tanui Ozbilen, of Turkey, second in 3:41.38 with Latvia’s Dmitrujs Jurkevics third in 3:41.45.
The first women's 1500m semi was much the quicker race, by almost three seconds, even though they were both slow affairs, but that will count for nothing in the final.
The reason is because the second semi was won by Yekaterina Gorbunova, who is the fastest overall on world rankings, where she sits fifth in this year's season's lists with 3:59:89.
Gorbunova qualified from her race in 4:11.58 from Germany's Corinna Harrer, in 4:11.59 with Gamze Bulut, of Turkey, third in 4:11.68.
Ukrainian Anna Mishchenko had won the first race in 4:08.95 from Asli Cakar-Alptekin, of Turkey, in 4:09.44 with Russian Kristina Khaleyeva in 4:09.69.
Britain's men set the standard in the 4 x 100m relay, as Dwain Chambers, who won gold as part of the team in Gothenburg in 2006, made his first appearance at these European Athletics Championships.
Chambers was originally selected for the individual 100m but he was left out of that team having won the national trials last weekend and the concentration has been put on the relay.
The British quartet had never run together before, but you would not have known it.
Christian Malcolm fed Chambers onto James Ellington and then into Mark Lewis-Francis for a swift 38.98 victory, the best of the two semi-finals, in a race where Russia were second in 39.08 with the Netherlands third in 39.34.
"We wanted to get through the heat as easy as possible," said Ellington. "The bends on the track are very tight, but we still managed very well. If we want to have any chance in London we must win here."
It was a fine run, too, from Lewis-Francis, who has been injured and failed to make the individual 100m final. Turn back the clock eight years, and he was Britain's anchor man in their historic Olympic gold medal run as he held off American Maurice Greene in Athens.
France will prove Britain’s main threat after they won the won the second heat in 39.01 with Germany second in 39.04 and Switzerland third in 39.41.
The French are the defending champion and Christophe Lemaitre, who retained his individual 100m title earlier in the week, said: "The race was good but we can do even better. We want to renew our title."
The other two qualifiers were the fourth placed teams in each race - Portugal, in the first, in 39.66 and the Czech Republic, in the second, in 39.52.
Both women's semi-final were run at the usual frenetic pace and were packed with drama.
Ukraine won the first in 42.70 from France in 43.12 with Poland third in 43.13, but there was delight for Switzerland in fourth as they set a national record of 43.51.
It was a run that takes them to the Olympic Games because of the events in the second semi-final.
Britain's women had finished second behind Germany, who won in 43.03 but because Hayley Jones, on the third leg, ran out of her lane, they were disqualified.
Switzerland have now overtaken Britain in the top 16 who will qualify for London.
There was no dream final for Merlene Ottey, though. She ran the anchor leg for Slovenia who finished sixth in the first race in 44.28.
It was 29 years ago that she won silver in the 200m at the World Championships here but now, at the age of 52, and still looking fast, she said: "It was a good relay and we did our season's best. I love sport, that is why I am still on the track. It feels good to be here in Helsinki again."
One woman always looked likely to stand out in the women’s discus and so it proved as Germany’s Nadine Miller booked her place in the final with an outstanding leading throw in qualification of 64.49m from her first attempt.
A year ago in Daegu, Miller won silver with 65.97 behind China’s Li Yanfeng with 66.52 and she was way ahead in her qualifying group early this morning, with Nataliya Semenova, of the Ukraine, next best with her second round throw of 59.59m.
Croatia’s Sandro Perkovic won Group B with 62.01m.
Muller said: “It was an easy qualification for me. It was a dream to qualify with my first throw and I managed to do it.
“The wind was not perfect but tomorrow there will be a new wind.”
In the heptathlon, Lyudmyla Yosypenko ended the first day in front with 3785 points, just 46 ahead of France’s Ida Antoinette Nana Djimou.
But that lead changed after the opening event of the second day as Nana Djimou produced a personal best performance of 6.42m with her final effort of the long jump - she had cleared 6.32m and 6.28m on the other two - to score 981 points and win her group.
Yosypenko finished fifth in the other group, with 6.14m, worth 893 points, as Latvia’s Aiga Grabuste won the section with 6.46m to take the discipline overall followed by Nana Djimou.
At that stage the Frenchwoman had 4720 points from Yosypenko in second with 4678 and Russian Yekaterina Bolshova third in 4659.
Nana Djimou extended her lead by winning the javelin with 55.82m as Yosypenko reached 49.61m, the overall points difference between the first two being 5693 to 5531.
Russian Sergey Shubenkov was the quickest man from the five heats of the 110m hurdles as he was timed at 13.38 in winning the last race.
Sweden’s Philips Nossmy opened the heats by winning the first in 13.56, Artur Noga, of Portugal, won the second in 13.49, Greece’s Konstandinos Douvalidis took the third in 13.57 and France’s Garfield Darien won the fourth in 13.46.
France’s Renaud Lavillenie won pole vault gold at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona in 2010 and he is confident mood to retain the crown.
He qualified for the final with his only clearance, waiting until the bar reached 5.55m to go through, the only man to clear that height with six behind him on 5.50m.