Shubenkov powers home to keep hold of his crown

Shubenkov powers home to keep hold of his crown
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Russia's Sergey Shubenkov successfully defended his European 110m hurdles title in Zurich.

In the weeks leading up to the European Athletics Championships, Sergey Shubenkov spoke of his preparations for the defense of his 110m hurdles title. As he chatted, he said one of the toughest aspects ahead was that his rivals now know so much about him unlike Helsinki two years ago.

But even if they did, they could do nothing to stop the Russian lunging for the line in Zurich on Thursday night to retain the crown. The man has a taste for gold and now he has a third European medal of that colour.

This double outdoor triumph goes alongside the 60m title from the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Gothenburg last year, but Shubenkov had, for a brief moment, become the forgotten man of the event after two storming semifinals earlier in the evening.

In the first of them he finished second in 13.16, the same time in which Great Britain's William Sharman had run a personal best before in the next race, France's Pascal Martinot-Lagarde was celebrating even before the line as he won easing down in 13.17.

As the fastest man in Europe this year with 12.95, Martinot-Lagarde was prime favourite for gold.
But in the end, it was not about times, it was about experience, it was about the know-how of holding your nerve when the stadium goes quiet and 10 hurdles stand between you and the top prize.

Shubenkov is only 23, but he was not going to be beaten.

He did not make the best of starts yet by halfway from lane four, he was edging away from Sharman to his immediate left while Martinot-Lagarde, to his right, was the architect of his own downfall.

The Frenchman hit a string of  barriers in his pursuit of the gold which went the way of Shubenkov in 13.19 in a race which was expected to be much tighter than the final outcome.

Sharman took second in 13.27 and though Dimitri Bascou was third for France in 13.28 with Martinot-Lagarde fourth in 13.29, the bronze medallist was then disqualified after it was adjudged his left arm had hit Hungary's Balazs Baji in the lane next to him.

So Martinot-Lagarde made the podium but what a night for Shubenkov.

"When I was coming to Zurich, I told myself I want to win," said the Russian. "I knew the opponents would be strong but I defended my title and now I have to defend it again in the future.

"I was enjoying the championships and now I am feeling super happy."

It was a second silver in a matter of weeks for Sharman after his performance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and he said: "I am getting used to being among the world's best now. I am mentally pleased by two championship medals."

As Shubenkov celebrated, Britain's Andy Turner, the man who had won gold before him at the European Athletics Championships in 2010 in Barcelona, saw his international career come to an end after he failed to make the final.

"I have a mixture of emotions," said Turner, 33, who was seventh in his semi. "I have been competing in major championships since 2004, so I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given. It is definitely time to hang up my spikes and let the youngsters have their turn."

Shubenkov is doing more than having his turn. He is transforming the event into his own private property.