Saladuha, Lavillenie, Storl, Harting and Co raise Olympic ambitions with European success
|Olha Saladuha of Ukraine bounded out to a world
leading distance of 14.99m to retain her European
triple jump title in Helsinki.
Olha Saladuha, Ukraine's defending triple jump champion, was subsequently named by the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) as the female athlete of the championships for her performance in the Finnish capital. Not only did the 28-year-old from Donetsk retain her title, she did so with a personal best of 14.99m, the best distance recorded this year.
That was 17cm more than she had recorded in Barcelona two years earlier, and five centimetres further than she had jumped in Daegu the previous summer to win the world title. Saladuha registered her jaw-dropping effort with her first jump, following it up with an effort of 14.84 and concluding the tournament with a jump of 14.89. Just in case anyone was in any doubt about how determined she was to remain European champion.
In that aim she was spectacularly successful. But it also allowed her to put down a vital pre-Olympic marker to all her rivals. Are you watching, Caterine Ibarguen?
The same held true for the AIPS male athlete of the championships, Renaud Lavillenie. Like Saladuha, the Frenchman successfully defended his European title in Helsinki. But in so doing Lavillenie had to rise to what he himself admitted afterwards were unexpected heights.
Having won in Barcelona with 5.85, Lavillenie found himself pushed here to successive first-time clearances of 5.87. 5.92 and 5.97 – just four centimetres short of his 2009 personal best of 6.01 – by the enduring challenge of three hugely competitive German jumpers, of whom the 34-year-old veteran Bjorn Otto performed best as he recorded a personal best of 5.92 to push Lavillenie to the heights.
Thus Lavillenie left Helsinki in ideal frame of mind for the forthcoming Olympics, and standing top of the 2012 world rankings. Job done.
But Saladuha and Lavillenie were not the only ones to use Helsinki as means of re-stating their growing Olympic ambitions.
In the men's shot put, for instance, Germany's 21-year-old world champion David Storl sent out a clear warning as he crushed all opposition with two season's bests of 21.19 and 21.58 which sandwiched an effort that was discounted for a marginal foul but which thudded clearly into territory beyond the 22 metres line. It was fearsome stuff from the young man who deprived Canada's experienced Diamond League winner Dylan Armstrong of the world gold with his last throw of the competition in Daegu last summer. "I am very satisfied with tonight's competition," said Storl. As well he might be.
|Great Britain's Mo Farah eased to an emphatic win in the men's
5000m in Helsinki.
For women's hammer winner Anita Wlodarczyk, the 2009 world champion, this competition offered her not only the chance to progress to the London Olympics as European champion – which she did with an effort of 74.29m – but to put one over on one of her main rivals, world record holder Betty Heidler.
The German had already fallen well short of her European ambitions by failing to qualify. The Pole took full advantage of her opportunity to gain what could be a vital mental edge.
If Heidler failed to take advantage of her big European opportunity, the same did not hold true of her German team-mate Robert Harting. The double world champion produced the two biggest throws of a world-class discus event which included Estonia's Olympic champion Gerd Kanter, whose constant competitiveness – he earned silver with a fifth round effort of 66.53m – kept Harting on edge and was a factor in his final achievement of 68.30.
Mo Farah of Britain, another European with a huge chance of winning gold at the Olympics, ticked all the boxes in terms of preparation as he became the first man to retain the European 5000m title. Although time of 13min 29.91sec was pedestrian by Farah's own high standards, his last lap of 53.6 was exactly what he will be looking for when he takes on the Kenyans and Ethiopians in London's Olympic Park.
|Czech Republic's Vitezslav Vesely will go to London
with a lot of confidence having won his first major
international title in Helsinki.
Irina Davydova used the 400m hurdles final as a means to warn her Olympic rivals in Jamaica and the United States as she won in a personal best of 53.77m, the best in the world this year, pushed by the best of three Czechs in the final, Denisa Rosolova, who took silver in a personal best of 54.24
A similar statement of Olympic intent occurred in the women's discus, where Sandra Perkovic of Croatia retained the European title with an effort of 67.62 which proved too much for Germany's world silver medallist Nadine Muller.
And while Bulgaria's Ivet Lalova may not realistically hope to win the Olympic 100m title, her first European victory here, seven years after a broken thigh prevented her contesting the world championships held in the same stadium, will send her on to London confident at least of matching her performance last summer, when she was the only European to make the women's world 100m final.
For several British athletes, too, these Europeans were crucial to their ambition of earning a place in the Olympic team which was announced by selectors two days after the conclusion of the championships.
Thus Rhys Williams took the third 400m hurdles place after seeing off the challenge of his closest domestic rival, Nathan Woodward, in winning his first European title in a season's best of 49.33sec. And Lynsey Sharp's late run to move from seventh to silver medallist in the women's 800m final so impressed the watching Head Coach of UK Athletics, Charles van Commenee, that she got the nod for London even though she only had an Olympic 'B' standard qualifier – thus doing for the contending ambitions of runners such as Marilyn Okoro, Jemma Simpson, Emma Jackson and 2009 world bronze medallist Jenny Meadows, all of whom had 'A' qualifiers either this year or last year, but none of whom have shown such competitive form.
Now that was what you call a European result...