Shukh edges out Ruckstuhl in a classic heptathlon battle

Alina Shukh
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Alina Shukh smashed her lifetime best and Ukrainian U20 record to defeat Switzerland's Geraldine Ruckstuhl for the heptathlon title

While the Gotzis Hypo-Meeting in May produced arguably the greatest heptathlon competition in history, the European Athletics U20 Championships in Grosseto was the scene of perhaps the best ever heptathlon at junior level with four athletes breaking the 6000 points barrier.

The battle for gold went right down to the 800m between Ukraine’s Alina Shukh and Switzerland’s Geraldine Ruckstuhl. Shukh was lying in third overnight but she reestablished her lead after going out to a marginally wind-aided 6.33m, the best result of the day with Austria’s Sarah Lagger moving back into medal contention with 6.21m.

Shukh and Ruckstuhl far outperformed their rivals with throws of 54.41m and 54.32m respectively - which would have sufficed for silver and bronze respectively in the individual final - and the Ukrainian built up a cushion of 37 points before the 800m.

While that margin appeared surmountable on paper, Shukh boasted a much faster lifetime best on paper but the outcome of the gold medal was far from certain as Ruckstuhl delivered a performance full of grit and guts, flinging herself across the line in first-place in a four second lifetime best of 2:12.56 ahead of Britain’s Niamh Emerson (2:12.60) and Shukh (2:13.52).

 

Ruckstuhl cut back on Shukh’s lead but the Ukrainian, who won the European U18 title in Tbilisi last year, held on to claim her second major title in twelve months with a national U20 record of 6381 points - the second highest winning score in championship history behind Sibylle Thiele’s 34-year-old championship record of 6465 points.

Ruckstuhl lost her Swiss record to Caroline Agnou at the European U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz last week but as well as claiming a silver medal, she also regained her record with a tally of 6357 points. Shukh and Ruckstuhl also move to sixth and seventh respectively on the world U20 all-time lists.

Lagger put together a consistent second day to improve her Austrian U20 record to 6083 points for bronze while Emerson improved her lifetime best to 6013 points to move ahead of a certain Jessica Ennis-Hill on the British all-time U20 lists. There was also an Irish record for Elizabeth Morland in fifth with 5801 points.

Piskunov makes it double gold for Ukraine

Ukraine’s Hlib Piskunov is another top prospect as he dominated the hammer final, setting three championship records with his three valid attempts: 80.52m with his first throw, 81.48m with his third throw and 81.75m with his sixth throw.

But despite setting three championship records and beating pre-competition favourite Aliaksandr Shymanovich from Belarus for the title, Piskunov wasn’t fully satisfied with his efforts,

“The competition went very well, I'm happy but I know I could throw a bit further. In my latest training sessions, I was throwing the hammer around 83 meters. Now my season is over, I'll take some rest before starting training again,” he said.

Shymanovich consolidating his silver medal position in the last round with 77.74m with Hungary’s Daniel Raba continuing his country’s fine tradition in the event with bronze with 75.95m.

After claiming two gold medals at the European U18 Championships last year, Alexandra Emilianov claimed Moldova’s first ever European title in any event at U20 level with victory in the discus with 56.38m.

Tentoglou lives up to billing with long jump gold

Greece’s Miltadis Tentoglou leads the European U20 lists with 8.30m and he duly lived up to expectations by claiming the gold medal in the long jump with a winning performance of 8.07m - a mark which he achieved in the first two rounds of the final.

In a high quality final, Poland’s Jakub Andrzejczak surpassed the eight metre line for the first time in his career with 8.02m in the first round to claim silver with Spain’s Hector Santos also reaching out to a personal best of 7.96m with his last jump of the competition.

“I was expecting this gold medal because I was the favorite today, but I would have prefered to jump more. But anyway, the important thing was to win,” said Tentoglou, who will be in action at the World Championships in London next month.