Schippers strides on as favourites fall

Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands is leading the
heptathlon field with 4699 points
after five events at the
European Athletics Junior Championships in Tallinn
on Friday.

It was a morning of upsets and eliminations on day two of the 21st European Athletics Junior Championships in Tallinn as medal contenders saw their hopes dashed around the track and field of the Kadriorg Stadium while Dafne Schippers extended her heptathlon lead with a personal best in the long jump.

Schippers has leapt 6.32 this year, but after three rounds it looked as if she would have to settle for 6.08 today, enough to keep her in first place but only by 56 points from Germany’s Sara Gambetta who had a best of 6.20.

But Schippers was then given a fourth attempt due to a technical error which marred her third try and while the rest of the competitors were packing their bags the Dutch world champion took full advantage, sailing out to 6.47.

That added another 997 points to her overnight score and extended her lead to 179 points over Gambetta with a total of 4699 before the javelin and 800m.

Gambetta must have been as confused as the stadium announcers who had already read out the final result. The German thought she’d brought her rival within touching distance, bringing her total to 4520, but had to watch as Schippers all but secured the gold.

Britain’s Katrina Johnson-Thompson remains in third after her best of 6.05, now 323 points behind the leader. Gambetta’s teammate Tilia Udelhoven is fourth after equalling her PB with 6.26.

Track events

The first major shock came in the men’s sprint hurdles where Andy Pozzi’s bid to keep the title in British hands received a boost when his main rival was disqualified for a false start. Pozzi began the round with an impressive win, looking smooth and stylish as he skipped clear of the field in the early morning heat to win in 13.50.

But there was disaster for German hope Gregor Traber, just two hundredths behind the British junior record holder in the rankings. Traber was too eager in the blocks and immediately put his head in his hands as the recall gun fired.

Pozzi’s main threat will now come from his teammate Jack Meredith after the world junior bronze medallist made it to this afternoon’s semi-finals by winning heat three. Stockier and punchier than Pozzi, Meredith powered home in 13.61. Heat five winner Dario Seghers of Belgium was third quickest in the round with 13.75.

There were no such upsets in the women’s event where Isabelle Pedersen began her bid to add the European junior to the world title she won last year with a convincing victory in 13.59.

The Norwegian is out to bury memories from Novi Sad two years ago when she was second, and she’ll move into this afternoon’s semis full of confidence after running 0.15s quicker than her nearest rival, Nooralotta Neziri.

The Finn won her heat in 13.74 but was some way short of the form which brought the European lead of 13.37 12 days ago. Germany’s Franziska Hofmann was close to her best, winning heat three in 13.75 while Ekaterina Belskina of Russia took heat two in 13.81.

All the favourites are comfortably through the men’s 400m hurdles heats, including Traber’s teammate Varg Königsmark, the event leader, who won heat one in 51.42 ahead of Frenchamn Stephane Yato who posted a PB 51.74.

Ireland’s Thomas Barr was the quickest of the round with his personal best of 51.29, just ahead of Italy’s José de Leon, while Stef Vanhaeren of Belgium jogged home at the front of heat three in 51.97.

The biggest cheer was reserved for heat four where Estonian hope Rasmus Mägi strode clear of the field in 51.78, his third best ever.

Russians remain the dominant force in the women’s one-lap hurdles after Anastasia Korshunova and Vera Rudakova dominated the first round. Korshunova looked strong in winning the first heat in 59.39, but the lanky Rudakova was simply a class apart in heat two, winning by 15 metres in 57.68, fastest of the round by more than a second.

Valeriya Khramova did enough to win heat three, in 59.23, while the other likely finallists include Britain’s Abigayle Fitzpatrick, who posted a PB of 59.44 to win heat four, and Romania’s Sanda Belgyan, second behind Rudakova in her PB, 59.15.

Event leader Pierre Ambroise Bosse of France posted the quickest time in the men’s 800m heats with an easy win in 1:51.11 while the elimination of Martijn Scheepers was the event’s big surprise.

The Belgian record holder was never in contention in heat one and jogged home disconsolately, finishing seventh behind Alejandro Estevez who qualified first for Spain in 1:51.54.

The other heat winners were Sweden’s Johan Rogestedt, the 2009 world youth champion, who did just enough to win heat three in 1:51.21 and Britain’s Gary Learmonth who fought to the line to win heat four in 1:51.19 ahead of Miroslav Burian of the Czech Republic.

Field events

Germany suffered a second major set-back when medal hope Daniel Clemens crashed out of the men’s pole vault without clearing a height. A world youth bronze medallist two years ago, Clemens adopted the risky strategy of waiting for an hour and 40 minutes before taking his first attempt of the day at the qualifying height of 5.15.

It proved to be a disaster as he failed three times before showing his disgust by throwing his pole to the ground. Ironically, he could have taken a much easier route to the final as only 5.05 was necessary to go through.

That was all the new French junior record holder Emile Denecker needed and he’ll now fight for gold against his teammate Kévin Ménaldo and Spain’s Didac Salas.

There’ll be a familiar name in the women’s hammer final but not that of Ukraine’s gold medal favourite Anna Skydan who, like Clemens, failed to register a mark in the qualifiers, fouling three times to add her name to the morning’s casualty list.

Skydan leads the field by more than a metre this year and her absence from the final opens the door to Turkey’s Kivilcim Kaya who improved her personal best by 87cm to 65.77, way beyond the 60m qualification tape.

That was the best of the morning, while French junior record holder Alexia Sedykh and Barbara Spiler of Slovenia also went through with ease. Sedykh, the daughter of men’s world record holder Yuriy, reached 63.29 while Spiler was a touch better at 63.42.

Things were tricky for the leading women’s high jumpers too, especially Russians Mariya Kuchina and Yekaterina Fedotova who were expected to dominate the medals. But in the end all the main contenders qualified.

Kuchina, who leads the field with 1.94 this year, needed three attempts to get over 1.82 while Fedotova could only clear 1.80, 10cm below her best. Luckily, that was enough to book her place in Sunday’s final as the Russians finished ninth and tenth best in the round.

Italy’s Alessia Trost and Marija Vukovic of Montenegro were the only athletes with clean competitions while Lithuanian Airina Palyste and Valeriya Bahdanovich of Belarus also made it through the low-key competition.