Sailer leads Germany to relay glory

The German 4x100m relay team of Leena Gunthe, Anne Cibis,
Verena Sailer and Tatjana Lofamakanda Pinto clocked a European
season-leading time of 42.51 to take the gold medal in Helsinki
on Sunday.
Verena Sailer had no time for instant celebrations as she anchored Germany's women to a sensational gold in the 4 x 100m relay on the final afternoon of the European Athletics Championships here in Helsinki.

She was going so fast, that her top priority was to slow down once she had soared through the line.

Sailer did that just around the bend, by which time she was jumping into the arms of teammate Leena Gunther before Anne Cibis and Tatjana Lofamakanda Pinto joined in.

With the 2010 individual European 100m champion on the final leg, the German's were always in a fantastic position if their baton changing was faultless.

Those elements came together to see them win gold here in 42.51, the fastest by a European team this year, and another example of how thrilling the relay can be when it works in this fashion.

"It was a great race," said Cibis. "Everything went smoothly, we had four fast runs and we can party a bit today."

The Netherlands, anchored by Jamile Samuel, were second in 42.80, a national record, with Poland third in 43.06.
"The track felt very good and fast, so a national record was quite easy to do today," said Dafne Schippers, who ran the second leg for the Dutch women. "The curves here are very tight, but luckily we got lane seven. It feels really good now."

Only one team did not make it round - the one who posed the biggest threat to the clock and the rest, that of the Ukraine.

They were the only European team in the top six of the world rankings - second infact - and running from lane five after setting the quickest time in the semi-finals.
But they did not progress past the first changeover.

Olesya Povh was in the lead as she hurtled around the bend and Nataliya Pohrebnyak set off.

All looked good, with Pohrebnyak's hand stretched out and the baton from Povh going into it. But as she went to clasp the stick, it all went wrong.

The baton was gone, along with their chances and they just ended up looking at each other in disbelief.
Not the first, far from it, and equally, hardly the last, to mess up a changeover.

But it is only adds to the pain when you are the favourites, you have run 42.70 to win the semi and you are second in the world with 42.60.

No longer. Germany's winning time puts them behind world leaders, the United States 'Red' who have run 42.19, and they are there just weeks before the Olympic Games with confidence high taking them to London in style.

It has been a weekend packed with drama in the women's relay.

Great Britain thought they had finished second in the opening semi-final yesterday but while their team were happily celebrating, the video judges were ruling that Hayley Jones had stepped out of her lane on the bend of the third leg.

It meant Britain were not only disqualified but with Poland and Switzerland running so well to reach the final, the host nation in London had dropped out of the top 16 teams in the world that make up the Olympic semi-finals.

It proved some weekend for Poland. After confirming their 2012 place, their quartet of Marika Popowicz, Daria Korczynska, Marta Jeschke and Ewelina Ptak were screaming as they all went into a huddle at the finish here in Finland as they took bronze.

Ptak said: "We are extremely happy. We had two goals and we reached them both: we wanted a medal and to qualify for the Olympics. It was a strong performance from us in a tough race."

France, with Christine Arron, the 1998 100m champion on the final leg, made it through the first change between Carima Louami and Ayodele Ikuesan but it was slow and the second leg runner had a great deal to work in the back straight.

In the end France, who were one of the favourites for a medal, were fifth in 43.44.