Miguel Angel Lopez won gold for Spain on the second day of the European Athletics Championships with a tremendous finishing surge in the final stages of a brilliant 20km walk.
The 26-year-old Spaniard, fifth at the Olympic Games in London in 2012 before taking bronze at last summer's IAAF World Championships, reached the top of the podium at last as he beat the man who triumphed in Moscow.
Russian Aleksandr Ivanov had moved in front in a dramatic last two kilometres of the race alongside the River Limmat, but as the finish line drew nearer, Lopez took control.
The winning gap was only a second - the closest in the history of the European Athletics Championships - but Lopez was not going to be passed as he crossed the line in 1:19.44 from Ivanov, whose Russian teammate Denis Strelkov was third, just a second further back.
It was a time he shared with Ukraine's Ruslan Dmytrenko, the World Race Walking Cup champion who was left devastated as he sat on the floor having missed out on a medal.
These four had broken away in the second half of the race, with Lopez, Ivanov and Dmytrenko taking turns to lead, but Strelkov held enough in reserve to snatch bronze.
"It was a difficult race,” said Lopez. “Any of us could have won but in the end I had enough. Spain has a great tradition in race walking and it is a big responsibility to keep that going."
Back in the Letzigrund Stadium, Ukraine’s world champion Bohdan Bondarenko required just one jump to qualify for tomorrow’s men’s high jump final as he cleared 2.23m, the best achieved by any of the athletes as they struggled to master the slippery conditions created by steady rain.
Bondarenko’s team-mate Andriy Protsenko also moved through safely on 2.23, as did Russia’s Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov. But Russia’s Aleksey Dmitrik, the fourth man here who has cleared 2.40 or better, came to grief after failing to clear 2.15, crashing into the mat on his last attempt as his take-off foot slid from under him.
Eilidh Child, Great Britain’s double Commonwealth silver medallist, was fastest qualifier in the women’s 400m hurdles qualifiers in 55.32. Ukraine’s Anna Titimets won her heat in 55.37 and Portugal’s Vera Barbosa was third fastest overall clocking 55.85. The Czech Republic’s former European indoor champion Denisa Rosolova was fourth fastest as she won her heat in 56.13.
All the favourites in the men’s 110m hurdles safely negotiated their opening round, with France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, Russia’s defending champion Sergey Shubenkov and Britain’s Commonwealth silver medallist William Sharman joint fastest with 13.29.
A Championship record for the decathlon 110m hurdles of 13.35 pushed Arthur Abele up from third to second place after the sixth of the ten scheduled events, but the overnight leader, his fellow German Kai Kazmirek, maintained his overnight lead, retaining a margin of 117 points after a personal best of 14.05. Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus dropped from second to third overall after clocking 14.20, 31 points below Abele.
But victory in the discus, with an effort of 48.81m worth 846 points, pushed Germany’s Rico Freimuth back into the podium positions, with Krauchanka, who managed 47.46 moving back up to second position as Abele, who could only throw 43.25, dropped down. Kazmirek, who threw 43.37, remained ahead, but only by a margin of 63 points.
In the women’s 800m heats, Britain’s defending champion Lynsey Sharp won her heat in masterful fashion to qualify in 2:01.55, marginally slower than her team-mate Alison Leonard’s winning time of 2:01.47 in the other heat. Maryna Arzamasova of Russia with 2:01.56 and Bulgaria’s Vanya Stambolova with 2:01.60 also qualified strongly.
Anita Wlodarczyk, Poland’s Olympic and world silver medallist who is defending her hammer throw title here, produced the best effort of a rain-delayed qualification session – 75.73m – to move confidently into Friday’s final. Among her challengers there will be Martina Hrasnova of Slovakia, silver medallist at the 2012 Helsinki Championships, who threw 73.05, and Germany’s Olympic bronze medallist and 2007 world champion Betty Heidler.