Iapichino overcomes conditions to win a dramatic long jump final

Larissa Iapichino
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Italy's Larissa Iapichino won the long jump final on the fourth morning of competition at the Boras 2019 European Athletics U20 Championships

Italy’s Larissa Iapichino won a see-sawing long jump final at the Boras 2019 European Athletics U20 Championships with 6.58m, following in the footsteps of her mother Fiona May who won the same event at these championships in Birmingham some 32 years ago.

Iapichino is being touted as one of Italy’s most exciting prospects in the sport having already set a national U20 record of 6.64m ahead of these championships. Born in 2002, Iapichino still has two more full seasons in the junior ranks to follow which means she will be eligible to defend her title in Tallinn, Estonia in 2021.

“At 17, I don't believe it - it's like a dream,” said Iapichino. “I dreamt of this moment yesterday, I was like: 'wow!' - I don't know what it will feel like to win a gold medal at the European Championships, and now I'm like: 'that's incredible!' 

Returning to the track for the fourth morning in a row having already contested the heptathlon, Great Britain’s Holly Mills defied the swirling wind and at times torrential rain with three successive jumps of 6.32m, 6.48m and 6.50m - just one centimetre off her lifetime best - to lead when the cut was made. Iapichino managed 6.37m in the second round while Sweden’s Tilde Johansson kept her competition - and her hopes of winning two gold medals - alive with 6.32m after beginning with two no-jumps.

The heavy rain mercifully eased off for the second half of the competition but the wind continued to swirl around the Ryavallen Stadium. Iapichino eclipsed Mills’ lead with a fourth round jump of 6.51m before Johansson put herself in contention for her second gold medal in the space of sixteen hours with 6.52m in the fifth round.

But with the very next jump of the competition, Iapichino took advantage of having the wind on her back, hitting the sand at 6.58m - the second best mark of her career thus far - to regain the lead with one round remaining. Mills and Johansson’s sixth round efforts were pegged back by strong headwinds while Iapichino produced the second best mark of the final in the sixth round with 6.53m.

“This win was important because I am happy with the way I handled this final because it was very difficult. We had rain at the start, then we had this huge headwind against us,” added Iapichino.

Bekmez and Kaliada dominate the 10,000m race walk finals

The bronze medallist two years ago at the age of 16, Turkey’s outstanding pre-race favourite Meryem Bekmez delivered a performance which was every bit as dominant as her form suggested.

Bekmez won the 10km title at the European Race Walking Cup in Alytus, Lithuania by over a minute and she was arguably in even better form on the track, winning the 10,000m race walk in 44:44.50 by nearly two minutes from her teammate Evin Demir in 46:38.68.

Turkey's Meryem Bekmez won the 10,000m race walk title at the Boras 2019 European Athletics U20 Championships
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Turkey's Meryem Bekmez won the 10,000m race walk title at the Boras 2019 European Athletics U20 Championships

An anticipated Turkish clean sweep didn’t quite materialise though as Kader Dost was consigned to the sin-bin for one minute after incurring three penalties. Spain’s Mariona Garcia was the beneficiary, coming through for the bronze in 46:50.50.

A medal might have slipped away from the Turks but it has still been a stellar week for the Turkish contingent who have performed well en masse in both Gavle and Boras.

“We have a few good race walkers, very talented, like me - there is also Ayse Tekdal, who won last week at the European U23 Championship and we also got a silver in men's U23 race - we are from the same region. We also have some very talented youngsters for the future,” said Bekmez. 

Belarus’ Mikita Kaliada similarly dominated the men’s 10,000m race walk, winning in 45:10.03 ahead of European Race Walking Cup winner Riccardo Orsoni (41:51.71) and Poland’s Lukasz Niedzialek (42:20.66).

The torrential rain proved a hindrance to the throwers competing in the discus and shot put finals but the race walkers thrived as nine of the top 10 finishers in the men’s race came away with lifetime bests.

Wieland shatters lifetime best to win the javelin title

One day after Simon Ehammer won the decathlon title, his namesake and roommate Simon Wieland smashed his lifetime best by six metres to win the javelin title.

Wieland began the competition with a lifetime best of 73.07m but he improved his mark three times - 74.26m, 78.29m and 79.44m - to win the title. 

“I knew I could throw far but 79.44m was nothing I expected. I share a room with Simon who won gold yesterday. Now we have a golden room We celebrated and cheered and he gave me an extra push,” he said.

In a high calibre final in which the three medallists all found some good wind, Latvia’s Krisjanis Suntazs improved his lifetime best again to 79.23m with Greece’s Dimitrios Tsitsos taking bronze, also with a lifetime best of 77.79m.

World U20 leader Cedric Sorgeloos from Belgium, who was on the cusp of missing the cut altogether, had to settle for fourth with 74.32m in the third round. 

In the shot put, Jorinde van Klinken from the Netherlands atoned for not reaching the discus final by winning the shot put title with her first throw of 17.23m, prevailing by more than one metre from Turkey's Pinar Akyol with 16.19m. Erna Soley Gunnarsdottir produced her best throw of 15.65m in the sixth round to secure bronze and Iceland's third medal in championship history.