Thrilling heptathlon climax in store on the second day in Gävle

Sophie Weissenberg
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Germany's Sophie Weissenberg maintains a narrow lead ahead of Switzerland's Geraldine Ruckstuhl after six events of the heptathlon

A tantalising eighteen points separate long-time leader Sophie Weissenberg from Germany and Switzerland’s Geraldine Ruckstuhl going into the final event of the heptathlon while four athletes are still very much in contention for bronze at the Gavle 2019 European Athletics U23 Championships.

Ruckstuhl was fourth after the first day but the former world U18 champion propelled herself into title contention after putting on a one-woman show in javelin. Ruckstuhl eclipsed the championship best with each of her three throws - 54.47m, 54.58m and 54.82m - but the 21-year-old was still not entirely satisfied with her efforts. 

“The long jump was OK, the javelin was good but I know I can throw so much further,” said Ruckstuhl, who holds the Swiss records in both the javelin (58.31m) and heptathlon (6391 points).

Based on past results, Ruckstuhl should overhaul Weissenberg in the 800m. The Swiss has a lifetime best of 2:12.56 compared to the German leader who has already improved her best ever 800m from 2:20:52 to 2:17.06 this season. 

Just 53 points separate third to sixth in the standings: the Netherlands’ Emma Oosterwegel (5146 points), Austria’s Sarah Lagger (5122 points), Belgium’s Hanne Maudens (5111 points) and Poland's Adrianna Sulek (5093 points). Sulek is sixth but the Pole boasts the fastest lifetime best from the pursuing quartet with a 2:10.50 PB. 

The hammer qualifying was delayed due to technical issues with the cage but the experienced Bence Halasz from Hungary wasn’t unduly perturbed. The reigning champion sealed his place in the final with his first throw of 73.49m, the best mark across the two pools.

European U20 champion Julia Ritter from Germany led the shot put qualifying with 17.32m ahead of teammates Katharina Maisch (17.12m) and Alina Kenzel (16.45m). Reigning champion Yuliya Levchenko from Ukraine and Belarus’ world U20 champion Karyna Taranda were also among the automatic qualifiers in the high jump.

The cold and wet conditions could have added an element of unpredictability into proceedings but all of the principal contenders progressed into the semifinals of the 400m hurdles.

The conditions were far from conducive for producing quick times but Hanna Mikhailava set a lifetime best of 58.24 to qualify fastest for the semifinals. She was only one of two athletes across the men’s and women’s heats to come away with a lifetime best.

Switzerland’s European U20 champion Yasmin Giger followed Mikhailava home in 58.50 while European U23 leader Linda Olivieri from Italy also safely progressed, winning heat four in 58.48.

Germany’s Constantin Preis, who has a lifetime best inside the 50 second-barrier, was the only athlete to break the 51 second mark in the men’s 400m hurdles heats in 50.85.

By contrast there was a sizeable shock in the heats of the men’s 800m with reigning champion and home favourite Andreas Kramer failing to make it through to the final. 

The European silver medallist has been laid low by a cold - and the inclement weather couldn’t have helped - and faded from first to sixth in the home straight, crossing the finish line in 1:50.17 in a race won by Spain’s Pablo Sanchez-Valladares in 1:49.49. “I feel very disappointed,” said Kramer. “I haven't had the best training before these championships which has affected my performance a lot.”

Great Britain’s Jemma Reekie is still on course for a middle distance double. After making it through the 800m heats yesterday morning, Reekie cruised into the 1500m final in 4:21.35 to finish second behind Portugal’s Salome Afonso in 4:21.16. 

Reekie’s toughest rival should be Belgium’s Elise Vanderelst who produced a last lap of 61.46 to win a tactical second heat in 4:28.54.

Watch the European Athletics U23 Championships live and on-demand at https://athletics.eurovisionsports.tv/.