After finishing third in 2015, second at the last edition two years ago on home soil in Tallinn, Estonia finally stepped on the top of the podium at the European Combined Events Team Championships Super League on Sunday.
The Estonians triumphed despite losing their leading heptathlete Grit Sadeiko, who had personal and seasonal bests better than any other woman in the western Ukrainian city of Lutsk, at the end of the first day due to heel problems with her right foot.
However, their trio of scoring decathlete rose to the occasion on the second day to pick up the slack and the team finished the 17-event competition – which combined the scores of a team’s three top decathletes and heptathletes – with a total of 39959 points, 399 ahead of second-placed Belarus.
Highlights from the European Combined Events Team Championships in Lutsk:
Full results: https://t.co/1Qs7q2RHrG pic.twitter.com/ecSq9cbVo9
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) July 7, 2019
Great Britain’s John Lane was the fastest man in the 100m when he won his heat in 10.91 but Spain’s Jorge Urena took over in pole position with 1775 points following a 7.38m leap in the long jump.
However, Berlin 2018 bronze medallist Vitali Zhuk gave notice that he was in good shape with a personal best of 15.66m in the shot put although the Belarusian was still in third place behind Urena and Estonia’s Kristjan Rosenberg at this stage.
However, Rosenberg proved to be the revelation of the high jump, increasing his personal best by three centimetres when clearing 2.16m on his third attempt to not only win this individual event but move to the top of the standings with 3405 points after four events.
The first day finished with Zhuk running the 400m more than half-a-second faster than anyone else with a time of 48.24, an excellent performance in the cooling conditions as dusk started to fall but Rosenberg continued his series of solidly consistent performances with 49.06 to lead overnight with 4263 while Urena ran 49.10 end the day with 4165, 53 ahead of Zhuk.
The Spaniard, who had won the European indoor heptathlon title back in March, regained the lead in the opening event of the second day when he produced a sparkling run over the barriers to reduce his 110m hurdles personal best by 0.02 to 13.88 to win that event but Zhuk again showed his strength in the throws by sending his discus out to 48.64m, well over a metre better than he had thrown before and more than three metres father than anyone else in Lutsk.
The effort moved Zhuk into the lead with a seven-event total of 5865, 54 ahead of Urena despite the latter producing his second consecutive personal best with a throw of 39.60m.
In a terrific pole vault competition, the top four men all vaulter five metres and higher and equalled or improved their personal bests with the field being led by Estonia’s Maicel Uibo, who cleared 5.30m on his first attempt before failing three times at 5.40m.
Having steadily accumulated points behind Zhuk, Urena and Rosenberg, Uibo’s vault, worth 1004 points saw him rise to the top of the standings with 6717, a thrilling finale starting the brew up as he had an advantage of just two points from Rosenberg and three from Zhuk, who vaulted a personal best of 5.00m and 4.80m respectively.
The honours in the javelin went to 2017 individual men’s winner Janek Oiglane who produced a massive throw of 70.61m with his third attempt but Zhuk’s best effort of 64.19m put him back in the lead with 7515 and a 14-point margin – just over two seconds advantage – over Uibo going into the last event, the 1500m.
In the first heat, with the countries in the lower half of the Super League standings all running together rather than in the usual system of world and European championships where the leading individual competitors do battle in the final heat, Urena had a race-long duel with his compatriot Pablo Trescoli before the latter eventually prevailed, the pair clocking 4:27.00 and 4:27.06, which meant that Urena took his tally to 8073, just 52 points shy of his personal best.
It also meant the other main protagonists – Zhuk, Uibo, Rosenberg and possibly Oiglane – in the following heat couldn’t falter too badly if they had ambitions of making the podium.
However, Zhuk ended all discussions about who was the best man over the two days in Lutsk with a thrilling run down the home straight at the end of his 1500m to overtake long-time race leader Lewis Church, of Great Britain, with 30 metres to go and cross the line in 4:33.54 for a total of 8237, the second best tally of his career just 53 off the mark he accrued in Berlin last summer.
In contrast, Uibo started to look very tired on the last lap and a saw a succession of men overtake him over the last 200m before finishing more than six seconds behind Zhuk, eventually scoring 8181.
Urena had dome enough in the first heat to finish third while first-day leader Rosenberg was fourth but was rewarded by breaking the 8000-barrier, putting behind him two years of back and shoulder problems, with a score of 8033.
In truth, the heptathlon had less depth than the decathlon, but one couldn’t fault home heroine Daryna Sloboda for her domination of the competition. The Ukrainian moved into the lead after the third event – with heptathlon favourite Sadeiko clearly struggling – and was never headed.
The Netherlands’ Marijke Esselink of the Netherlands sped to personal best of 13.45 to win the 100m hurdles and still held the overall lead after a 1.72m high jump, and event which saw Sloboda and Great Britain’s Katie Stainton clear 1.78m, a personal best for the latter.
Sloboda to took over at the top after winning the shot with 14.03m, just four centimetres off her best.
Sloboda finished almost a second behind the fastest women in the 200m, Great Britain’s Jo Rowland who won in 24.25 but her time of 25.19 was enough to keep the lead overnight with 3589 points.
Stainton produced another outstanding jumping performance in the opening event of the second day with another personal best. Her long jump of 6.29m was the best mark of the morning and moved her from fourth to second overall while Sloboda reached 6.22m.
Sloboda extending her advantage with a personal best of 42.98m, although mention must be made of Mari Klaup-McColl’s winning effort of 50.05m, an important addition to Estonia’s points with Sadeiko now watching from the sidelines.
Esselink moved up to second place by throwing 41.59m to Stainton’s 38.95m but the Briton is a far better 800m runner and showed it when produced a determined run to win the final event in 2:09.31 to take almost four seconds off her best.
Sloboda followed her home in 2:12.20 to give her a comfortable victory with a heptathlon best of 6165. .
Stainton topped 6000 points for the first time in her life with a total of 6029 – making a major impact on Great Britain finishing a surprising third in the overall team standings behind the two big guns of Estonia and Belarus – while Esselink had clocked 2:20.15 in the earlier heat to finish third with a personal best of 5905.
Full results here.