France’s Jimmy Gressier has showed in the past that he can win in a sprint and he can also win from the front and the two-time European U23 cross country champion made the most decisive of breaks with four laps to go to win the 10,000m final on the first evening of the Gavle 2019 European Athletics U23 Championships.
Making his 10,000m debut on the track, Gressier was always towards the front and on the inside of a tightly bunched group which included the Israeli trio of Tadesse Getahon, Godadaw Belachew and Bukayaw Malede who controlled the pace through the halfway point in 14:32.52. Meanwhile, Gressier was content to play the waiting game.
A large group was still in contention past the eight kilometre mark but Gressier’s break with exactly four laps to go proved utterly devastating, opening up an immediate gap on Getahon and the rest of the pursuers.
Gressier’s winning margin was such that once again he could afford to showboat in the last 150 metres. The knee slide which turned him into a social media sensation at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships was sensibly avoided but Gressier stretched his arms out and flew down the home straight to win in 28:44.19 ahead of Getahon (28:46.97) and Great Britain’s Emile Cairess (28:50.21).
Gressier, who was racing in flats rather than spikes, covered the second half of the 10,000m in 14:11.67. He also covered the last four laps in 4:17.11 despite easing off in the home straight.
"Although running cross country comes very naturally to me, I am slowly getting used to running on a stadium track, and I feel the 10,000m is the right event for me in the future," said Gressier. "I couldn't be happier with this European title, but now I want to focus on the 5 000m on Saturday."
There was also a significant medal for runner-up Getahon who became Israel’s first ever track medallist in European U23 Championships history.
Weissenberg holds the overnight lead in the heptathlon
Germany’s Sophie Weissenberg had a strong finish to the first day of her heptathlon and she leads overnight with a score of 3675 points and a near 100-point cushion on Poland’s world U20 bronze medallist Adrianna Sulek (3589 points) and Belgium’s Hanne Maudens (3576 points).
Weissenberg moved from third to first in the standings after setting a lifetime best of 14.18m in the shot put before clocking 24.67 on a chilly evening and into a headwind in the 200m. Expect Weissenberg to further her lead in the long jump as she won an individual silver medal in this event at the IAAF World U20 Championships in 2016.
“This has been a very tough competition because of the headwind. The hurdles was really hard to run for example,” said Weissenberg.
The heptathlon lost France’s Solene Ndama after the high jump and overall leader after two events Maria Huntington from Finland was also forced to withdraw after the shot put due to a hamstring injury.
The star of the shot put was Austria’s former world U20 champion Sarah Lagger who slingshotted herself into medal contention after an indifferent morning with a near one metre lifetime best of 15.23m.
Lagger is fifth after the first day with 3523 points - one place behind her long-time contemporary Geraldine Ruckstuhl from Switzerland with 3575 points. Both of them are noted second day performers as well and Ruckstuhl could make an impact on the top of the leaderboard if she produces a throw close to her national record of 58.31m.
Title favourites Bukowiecki and Emilianov progress safely
Konrad Bukowiecki goes in search of his second major title in the space of the week and the Pole appears to be on course for a successful defence of his shot put title after he was the only thrower to surpass the 20 metre-line in the qualifying round.
After winning the World University Games title on Monday evening in Naples with a championship record of 21.54m, the reigning champion was pleased to confirm his berth in tomorrow’s final with his first throw of 20.44m.
“I was really looking forward to getting a direct qualification in the first throw and I can't wait for tomorrow. I think I can throw even further in the final. I just came back from the World University Games where I threw over 21.50m and I hope I can do it again here,” he said.
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In his first outdoor competition of the season after injury, Norway’s European U20 champion Marcus Thomsen also handsomely surpassed the automatically qualifying distance of 18.80m by more than one metre with 19.94m. The Swedish medal contender Wictor Pettersson recorded the third best throw of the day with 19.76m.
Another outstanding favourite Alexandra Emilianov from Moldova made easy work of the automatic qualifying mark of 53.00m in discus qualifying. The reigning world U20 champion recorded 55.41m with her first throw but the two pools were led by Croatia’s Marija Tolj with 60.25m.
Belarus’ Aliaksei Katkavets also impressed in the men’s javelin qualifying, improving his national U23 record to 82.46m. Across the two pools, he was the only thrower to surpass the 80m-line but fellow favourites Alexandru Novac from Romania (78.30m) and Poland’s Cyprian Mrzyglod (76.35m) also progressed automatically on their first attempts.
Larsson puts himself in title contention; Swoboda unassailable in the 100m semifinal
Just 0.07 separated the top six fastest qualifiers from the men’s 100m semifinal. Germany’s Marvin Schulte won the first semifinal in 10.49 before home favourite Henrik Larsson almost matched that time with 10.50. “My last medal was at the European U18 Championships in 2016 so I really want to get a medal again,” said Larsson, who holds the Swedish U23 record with 10.20.
By contrast, it would appear that only a false start of a similar mishap will stop reigning champion Ewa Swoboda in the women’s 100m. The Pole was the fastest qualifier in the heats this morning and went even faster in the semifinal with 11.41.
Jemma Reekie will be one of the busiest athletes at the championships and if everything goes to plan, the European U20 1500m champion will be racing on each of the four days of competition in Gavle.
Reekie is attempting a middle distance double and she began her campaign by posting the fastest time in the 800m heats with 2:04.74. She will return to the track tomorrow morning for the heats of the 1500m.
Watch the European Athletics U23 Championships live and on-demand at https://athletics.eurovisionsports.tv/.