Mayer and Harting’s golden ambitions crumble on a dramatic morning in Berlin

Kevin Mayer
Getty Images

Kevin Mayer's campaign for the European decathlon title came to grief in the second event after throw fouls in the long jump

The golden European ambitions of two global champions fell to earth in the Olympic Stadium this morning at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships.

France’s world decathlon champion Kevin Mayer failed to register a legal long jump in his second discipline and home athlete Christoph Harting, the Rio 2016 discus champion, also failed to set a legal mark in his qualifying competition.

It could have been worse. At least Harting’s elder brother Robert was able to ensure he will have his last moment in the sun at the stadium where he won the world title in 2009.

The 33-year-old London 2012 champion, who was seventh farthest qualifier for tomorrow’s final with 63.29 metres, has said Berlin will mark his final championship appearance.

But there was no hiding the pain for his younger brother, or the shattered French athlete.

As the realisation of what he had – or rather, hadn’t done – sank in, Mayer dropped to his haunches, covering his face from the inquisitive TV camera in front of him. His day had started in ideal fashion as he led the 100m standings with a personal best of 10.64. The sun was shining. He was bumping his fist against his chest. It seemed like it was going to be his day…

But then three ambitious leaps, all landing him well clear of the leading mark, left three tell-tall marks on the board which invalidated them.

All the preparation, the mini-triathlon at the Paris IAAF Diamond League meeting yielding two personal bests, mixing it with the big beasts in the mainstream shot put and 110m hurdles in the Monaco Diamond League meeting - all gone to naught.

Harting was not the only global discus champion to suffer the dread initials NM next to his name. That also befell Poland’s 2015 world champion and reigning European champion Piotr Malachowski from Poland.

And France’s misery was complete in the decathlon as both Mayer’s compatriots, Romain Martin and Ruben Gado also failed to register a long jump mark. Surely not in sympathy.

Another man with the unwelcome NM experience was home decathlete Matthias Brugger.

Mayer who subsequently abandoned the competition, commented: “This is a black day for me. I do not have an excuse. I am very sorry for those who expected a lot of me, for all my fans. I was in great shape, but today the others were better.

“I wanted to show much more than this. This was a big mistake. I took a high risk. But I do not regret the risk. I know that many people were expecting a lot from me and it hurts to disappoint them.

“I do not look at the board any more when I jump. I guess I faulted because of the back wind. I did not think that I could trespass the board three times, to have three invalid attempts. For four years I have always hit the board very well.

“This is really frustrating for me. I am quite disgusted. But this is sport.”

Brugger, however, decided to press on. “Not marking at the long jump is my own fault,” he said. “I have no clue why and how this happened. It is an honour for me to be here and this is why I will finish this decathlon.”

The German duly won the shot put with 15.92m, after which the standings were led by Norway’s Martin Roe, winner of the long jump with 7.61m, who had 2673 points, with Germany’s Arthur Abele second on 2636 and Karl Saluri of Estonia third on 2629.

In the men’s 400m qualifying rounds, Belgian brothers Jonathan and Kevin Borlee topped the lists with 45.19 and 45.29 respectively. Younger brother Dylan also went through with 45.84.