Relegated two years ago in Tel Aviv, Iceland gained automatic promotion after winning the European Athletics Team Championships Third League in Skopje, North Macedonia in the most dramatic fashion.
A weekend which had seen Serbia, who had also gone down last time, dominate the competition, with 15 individual winners, came down to the last event, the men’s 4x400m. Leading with 427 points from Iceland with 418, Serbia was disqualified from the second of the relays and with it went the title.
As Abedin Mujezinovic led Bosnia & Herzegovina home in 3:13.61, Iceland banked 12 points in second, anchored by Ivar Kristinn Jasonarson as they finished in 3:14.28, and the one promotion spot available was theirs. Serbia was disqualified under rule 163.2, jostling or obstructing, as Iceland moved back into the second tier of the competition which will resume in 2021.
Trailing by eight points to Serbia after the first day, it was always a battle between the two nations during the second day as they came out on top by just those three points with Bosnia and Herzegovina third with 385 and Moldova fourth with 377.
In the end, Iceland was further proof you can become champions without winning an abundance events but as important having a series of good finishes.
On Saturday, they took maximum points in the women’s pole vault with Hulda Thorsteinsdottir (3.60m), the women’s javelin with Asdis Hjalmsdottir (57.04m), the women’s 4x100m relay in 45.81 and the men’s 4x100m relay in 40.44.
They had only one victory on Sunday when Gudbjorg Jona Bjarnadottir added to her relay success by taking the 200m in 23.74 but their good finishes brought them success.
One of the surprises of the weekend was that Anita Hinriksdottir, a multiple winner at these European Athletics team Championships, came second in both the 800m and 1500m.
The Icelandic star seemed a banker in the 800m, her specialist distance where she was the 2017 European indoor bronze medallist, but Bosnia’s Jelena Gajic had other ideas on Saturday, winning in 2:05.82 from Hinriksdottir in 2:06.16 and Serbia’s Marija Stambolic while teammate Teodora Simovic won the 1500m in 4:32.33 from Hinriksdottir in 4:36.33.
It was some two days for one of Albania’s greatest athletes - Luiza Gega - as she produced the best result across all four leagues in winning the 3000m steeplechase and 5000m.
The former European 3000m steeplechase silver medallist won this event without being at all troubled in 9:25.80 on Saturday and then on Sunday, she smashed her 5000m national record of 15:46.89 with victory in 15:36.62.
It was also two days to remember for the hosts sprinter Jovan Stojovski. He broke his personal best to win the 100m in 10.72 on Saturday from Bosnia’s Hajrudin Vejzovic in 10.77 and then made it a double with 200m glory in 21.35.
But it was always Serbia who were in the lead on Sunday as along with Simovic’s win in the 1500m, Milos Savic triumphed in the pole vault (4.81m), Anja Lukic won the 100m hurdles (13.83), Luca Trgovcevic took the 110m hurdles (14.29), Elzan Bibic won the men’s 3000m (8:04.74), Milica Gardasevic was first in the women’s long jump (6.28m) ahead of victory in the women’s 4x400m relay in 3:43.50.
But Iceland stayed close to them - and it proved enough.
Saturday had seen the Republic of North Macedonia have success from the start in their home championships as they won the 400m hurdles, the opening track final, which Drita Islami won clearly in 60.81 from Moldova’s Iana Garaeva (64.35).
Serbia’s Asmir Kolasinac, the 2013 European champion, confirmed his position as favourite for the shot put as he was the only man to clear 20 metres. He did that with his fourth and last effort of 20.01m for score maximum points from Montenegro’s Tomas Djurovic (19.45m) and Bosnia’s Kemal Mesic (19.43m).
Kolasinac was one of nine Serbian winners on Saturday. The others were: Elzan Bibic in the 1500m (3:47.79), Strahinja Jovancevic in the long jump (7.39m), Jasmin Halili in the high jump (2.10m) and Milos Malesevic in the 5000m (14.47.05). In the women’s events, Milana Tirnanic won the 100m (11.50), Maja Ciric took the 400m (53.32), Simovic in the 3000m (9:23.86) and Dragana Tomasevic in the discus (59.19m).