Five track victories on day two keeps Norway in title contention

Jakob Ingebrigtsen
Rune Helliesen

Jakob Ingebrigtsen eased to victory in the 1500m on his home track at the European Athletics Team Championships First League in Sandnes

Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen dutifully delivered commanding victories on their home track here in Sandnes, to full stands of damp but joyful supporters, helping Norway go into the third and final day of the European Athletics Team Championships First League in third place on 139 points.

Portugal, despite winning only one event today, thanks to Carlos Nascimento in the men’s 100m, were consistently strong and now have 163 points as they occupy what will be the sole promotion place to the Super League this year.

The Netherlands are second on 140, having faltered in the day’s final 4x100m events, in which their men were disqualified and their women failed to finish after a handover disaster on the final exchange.

A belated disqualification for Norway’s 4x100m women meant the hosts slipped from second to third at the end of the day after losing three points.

At the other end of things the four teams occupying relegation places – as European Athletics streamlines this biennial competition – are Slovakia, on 116, Belgium on 111, Hungary on 108 and Lithuania, eleventh and last on 91.

Following the late withdrawal with illness of their world and European 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm, who was to have run the 400 and 4x400m here, the host nation’s athletes rose to the challenge today as other maximum points totals achieved thanks to Amalie Iuel in the 400m hurdles, Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal in the 3000m and Hedda Hynne in the 800m.

The bad weather that had been forecast arrived intermittently during the afternoon’s programme, and seemed to unleash its main force on the two local heroes – but nothing was going to be allowed to rain on their parade in the setting where they have been running for the majority of their lives.

Filip looked comfortable as he tracked the early leaders in the men’s 5000m, Aras Kaya of Turkey, who has a best of 13:23.91, and Portugal’s Helio Gomes, who had run 13:41.01.

The 2016 European 1500m champion, who has set a personal best of 13:11.75 this year, waited until there were two-and-a-half laps to go before making his inevitable move, and was 50 metres clear by the bell, after which he pushed on, crossing the line – to cheers and bells – in 13:37.09, with the Turkish runner eventually taking second place in 13:53.95.

“It was really cool racing on my home track,” Filip said. “It happens not that often. The audience were fantastic and gave me a real boost, especially on the side where the wind comes from behind. Before the race I was actually a bit nervous.”

His 18-year-old brother, a double gold medallist at last year’s European Championships, completed victory in similar fashion in the men’s 1500m, breaking clear with a lap and a half to go and coming home to expected adulation in 3:43.43. “To win here is very special,” Jakob said. “And I have to say that, for so many people to choose to come here today, in real Sandnes weather – that is really something!”

Iuel had set the tone for the home team in the first track final of these Championships, the women’s 400m hurdles. The recent Universiade bronze medallist, who set a national record of 55.15 in June, won in bold fashion.

From lane four, the 25-year-old tracked her closest rival a lane outside, Portugal’s Vera Barbosa, passing her in the back straight and stirring enthusiasm from the filled stands as she ran unchallenged to the line in 55.80, with Femke Bol of the Netherlands a distant second in 56.97.

Top points in the men’s 400m hurdles went to Turkey’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist and 2018 European silver medallist Yasmani Copello, in 49.23.

Home spirits were lifted again as their visually-impaired T12 world record-holder Salum Kashafali, who had only made the eighth and last qualifying place in the men’s 100m after mistaking the line the previous day, earned eight points after finishing fourth behind Nascimento in 10.64.

“I really felt the support of the crowd when I ran,” said Kashafali, who clocked 10.80 without suffering any of the problems he had had the previous day and finished off by anchoring Norway in the 4x100m B final. “I give myself a score of B plus. I was so excited today, because this is about the team and not me. So now I am relieved!”

Iuel’s boldness was replicated in the 3000m by Grøvdal, the European 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist, who won her 3000m flat race from the front as predicted rain arrived.

Having arrived at the bell with only Maureen Koster of the Netherlands and Portugal’s Mariana Machado in contact, she applied pressure on the back straight which detached the latter runner, and held off the Dutch challenge all the way down the finishing straight – to the sounds of cheering and bell-ringing – before winning in 9:45.20.

Home noise remained at a high level as the next race ended with another determined Norwegian female athlete holding off all comers down the finishing straight – on this occasion Hedda Hynne, who won the women’s 800m in 2:04.94 from Belgium’s Renee Eykens in 2:05.24.

“The support and cheering from the crowd really helped me in the last 200m,” said Hynne. “I am really proud of getting the points for Team Norway!”

But there was a void to be filled by the home nation when the men’s 400m runners took their turn, following the late withdrawal of talismanic Warholm.

Fredrik Overeng, the late replacement, gave everything in finishing sixth in 47.39 as Belgium’s 19-year-old IAAF World U20 champion Jonathan Sacoor gave another smooth and impressive winning display, clocking 46.43 in holding off Ireland’s Christopher O’Donnell, who recorded 46.70. “It was a lot windier than yesterday – and I thought yesterday was bad!” Sacoor commented.

Belgium rounded off the day with another track win as their women’s 4x100m team clocked 44.53.

The Netherlands had claimed their first maximum of 11 points through Marije Van Hunenstijn, who won the 100m in 11.63 into a headwind of 1.8 m/s with Portugal’s Lorene Bazolo second on 11.75 and another Dutch win soon followed as Lisanne De Witte, the European indoor and outdoor 400m bronze medallist, lived up to her position as favourite, winning in 52.05.

In the field, Denzel Comenentia was a Dutch winner in the shot put with 20.61m.

Slovakia’s first maximum points arrived courtesy of their 36-year-old hammer thrower Martina Hrasnova, European silver medallist in 2012 and 2014, who won with a first round best of 71.64m from Turkey’s Kivilcim Salman, who reached 68.63.

And Slovakia’s Tomas Veszelka won the men’s long jump in a personal best and stadium record of 7.79m, finishing just a centimetre ahead of Uladzislau Bulakhau of Belarus and three centimetres clear of Norway’s Ingar Kiplesund.

There were two more 11-point performances for Turkey after Copello’s, as Alperen Alcet won the men’s high jump with 2.21m, and the men’s 4x100m team earned victory in 39.46, with Portugal second on 39.79.

Hungary, Belarus and Lithuania all had one win today. Hungary’s Viktoria Wagner-Gyurkes earned victory in the women’s 3000m steeplechase in 9:53.48, 2016 European champion Tatsiana Khaladovich was first in the women’s javelin with 61.17m, and Lithuania’s Dovile Kilty triumphed in the women’s triple jump with a personal best of 14.28m.

Because of the weather the women’s pole vault, which was to have opened the day’s programme, will take place tomorrow morning, along with the men’s final, at a nearby indoor venue.