Perkovic halts German treble with historic fifth discus title

Sandra Perkovic
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Croatia's Sandra Perkovic became the first athlete in European Championships history to win five gold medals in the same event 

A crowd of 60,500 spectators – the largest yet at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships – inspired German athletes to gold in two of the three field events, but the possibility of a home hat-trick was terminated by a fifth-round throw of 67.72m.

That meant Croatia’s already multiple world and Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic became the first athlete to win five European titles in the same event.

Until that late, decisive flourish it looked as if Nadine Muller’s season’s best of 63.00m might be enough to earn a third German victory on the night following those of Mateusz Przybylko, who won the men’s high jump with an equal personal best clearance of 2.35m, and Malaika Mihambo, who took the women’s long jump title with 6.75m.

As things turned out, there was a golden hat-trick on day five and it was Poland who managed it. Adam Kszczot became the first athlete to win three European 800m titles, clocking 1:44.59 and Justyna Swiety-Ersetic won the women’s 400m title in 50.41 before anchoring her team to victory in the women’s 4x400m final less than two hours later in 3:26.59.

Until Perkovic - who had been unable to reach 60 metres for more than the first half of the final - burst into life with her penultimate throw, the hosts were poised not just for gold but for a full podium. Muller was followed by team-mates Shanice Craft, who eventually took bronze with 62.46m, and Claudine Vita, fourth with 61.25m.

“It was a very tough competition,” said Perkovic, before being lifted off her feet by Berlino the Bear. It was the second big surprise of the night for the Croatian.

“During the competition, I was thinking about my mum who is always very nervous watching me in the TV,” she said. “So I started to think about her and I imagined how nervous she must be at home seeing me not throwing so well. Then I managed to finally improve and I showed a smile to the camera. And suddenly, I saw her in the crowd. She came here to surprise me!”

Mihambo prevails with reigning champion Spanovic absent

Mihamabo’s winning effort came in the third round but she could not relax for a moment in a highly volatile contest which had opened up following the Achilles tendon injury which prevented Serbia’s world indoor champion Ivana Spanovic from defending her title.

While Britain’s Lorraine Ugen - who leads this year’s world list with 7.05m, failed to progress beyond the first three jumps after managing only 6.45m, her compatriots enjoyed a far more profitable day and Shara Proctor moved into silver position with a fourth round effort of 6.69.

A fifth round effort of 6.66m from the third British jumper, 2016 silver medallist Jazmin Sawyers, took her into bronze position, but she was immediately displaced by Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh, who managed 6.67m. Back came Sawyers with a final effort that matched the Ukrainian’s best and moved her back into bronze through a better second best jump.

But Bekh responded in turn with 6.73m, moving up to silver. There was nearly one final twist, as Proctor’s last effort looked big – but it was just one centimetre above her previous best, and the German was free to cavort.

“At the end it was very tight,” Mihambo said. “I followed the results of the other jumpers and was not sure about my medal because I knew that the others could jump further than me. I still do not believe  that I won the gold medal. I am so pleased.”

Przybylko’s victory came courtesy of five first-time clearances, starting with 2.19m and ending with a height that equalled his personal best and saw off the challenge of his only remaining competitor - reigning European U20 champion Maksim Nedasekau from Belarus - who skipped up to 2.37m after two failures at 2.35m but then presented the delighted German with gold when he failed to clear at his first attempt.

Nedasekau claimed silver with 2.33m, equalling his personal best, and bronze went to Authorised Neutral Athlete Ilya Ivanyuk in a personal best of 2.31. Italy’s defending champion Gianmarco Tamberi, still working towards his best form following the traumatic ankle injury he suffered in 2016, having to settle for fourth with a season’s best of 2.28.

Kszczot makes it a hat-trick in the 800m; two gold medals for Swiety-Ersetic

Kszczot offered yet another demonstration of perfectly judged championship racing as he took over the lead around the final bend from France’s world champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse who had led through the bell and powered home to victory in 1:44.59, running negative splits of 53.57 and 51.02.

Andreas Kramer came through for silver in 1:45.03, equalling the Swedish record, and Bosse just about hung on for bronze in 1:45.30.

Swiety-Ersetic’s individual triumph over one lap – in the fastest time run by a European this season - came after Greece’s leader Maria Belibasaki ran out of gas with the line beckoning, having to settle for silver in 50.45 before collapsing in a heap. She did have the added consolation of a national record as did bronze medallist Lisanne De Witte from the Netherlands, clocking 50.77 to improve her national record.

And Swiety-Ersetic rounded things off just over an-hour-and-a-half later as she took over the baton with a final leg lead, allowed France to push on, then moved back past their runner to claim the win.

With Floria Guei on anchor, France finished second in 3:27.17, with Great Britain taking bronze in 3:27.40.

Before her second challenge of the evening, Swiety-Ersetic commented: “I am shocked, really surprised. The only complication is now that I have to get ready for the 4x400 relay which starts in 90 minutes.

“This time is amazing. It is the second fastest time in the Polish history and also the first European gold for our country at this distance so it means a lot. Even Irena Szewinska who passed away this year got only bronze so it is very emotional and important for me.”