Sprunger and Kambundji victorious on home soil in Bellinzona

Lea Sprunger
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Switzerland's Lea Sprunger won the 400m hurdles at the Gala Dei Castelli in Bellinzona

A European outdoor champion last year, a European indoor champion this year – Lea Sprunger knows all about making it to the top of the podium.

Doha is now only a few weeks away and Switzerland’s 400m hurdles star showed her home fans on Sunday (1) that she will be heading to the IAAF World Championships in a mood for more success.

Running at the Gala Dei Castelli in Bellinzona, a European Athletics Classic Permit Meeting, Sprunger won her specialist distance in 55.24 from Canada’s Sage Watson, second in 55.62, and Great Britain’s European bronze medallist Meghan Beesley, third in 56.45. 

Sprunger will know she has to go faster than her season’s best of 55.13 from last month once the action heats up in Doha but she has one of the most important aspects of success already in the bank – her ability to deliver at championships.

The 29-year-old proved that when she won the 400m hurdles title in Berlin and then the flat 400m in Glasgow in March and this victory will only add to her confidence as she heads to Doha. But up next for Sprunger is The Match: Europe v USA in Minsk where Sprunger will not only face strong continental opposition but also Olympic bronze medallist Ashley Spencer from the United States. 

The same, too, for her teammate Mujinga Kambundji, who achieved a fine home win in the 100m – as she beat the reigning world champion.

Kambundji, who won bronze in the 60m at the World Indoor Championships last season, won in 11.12 in a race which saw American Tori Bowie, the gold medallist from London in 2017, only fifth in 11.29. The Bahamas’ Tynia Gaither was second in 11.16 with Britain’s Daryll Neita third in 11.20. 

With the British team announced for the World Championships at the start of this week, Cindy Ofili got her timing just right. The national champion the previous weekend, the Olympic fourth-placer skimmed well under the qualifying time of 12.98, winning the narrowest of races in 12.85 from Costa Rica's Andrea Vargas (12.86) and the USA’s Queen Claye (12.86). 

Not only did she secure the qualifying standard for Doha, this was Ofili's first sub-13 second clocking since rupturing her Achilles tendon - and her fastest time since 2016. 

Elsewhere on the track, Great Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake won the ‘B’ 100m final in a season’s best of 10.11 from Turkey’s Jak Ali Harvey (10.17) and the Netherlands’ Joris Van Gool (10.31). 

Iryna Herashchenko was triumphant in the high jump in a competition thoroughly dominated by the European contingent. The Ukrainian cleared 1.94m to beat Italians Elena Vallortigara (1.91m) and Alessia Trost (1.88m).

Poland’s European shot put champion Michal Haratyk has twice surpassed the 22-metre line in the shot put but this time he had to settle for third with 20.69m as American Ryan Crouser produced a superb 22.28m to win from Nigeria's Chuk Enekwechi (21.44m).