Team Europe triumph at the first instalment of The Match

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Team Europe won the inaugural edition of The Match Europe v USA with 724.5 points ahead of the United States with 601.5 points

The standings were finely balanced after the first day of competition in Minsk but Team Europe ran out commanding winners on the second and final day of The Match Europe v USA. 

After six individual victories on day one which gave Team Europe a slender lead of 16 points, the hosts added eleven more wins to the team tally which brought their team total up to 724.5 points ahead of the United States with 601.5 points.

Team Europe arrived at the Dinamo National Olympic Stadium with a team brimming with major champions in the field events and the European contingent thoroughly dominated in this domain, winning all but one event on the in-field - the exception being the shot put which was won by Maggie Ewen with a lifetime best of 19.47m.

Reigning world javelin champion Johannes Vetter has been beset by injuries this season but the German produced arguably the best individual performance of the second day for Team Europe. Taking six throws for only the third time this season, Vetter produced a trio of throws in excess of 88 metres - including a third round effort which landed just beyond the 90-metre line at 90.03m.

“I really enjoyed this competition,” said Vetter. “We all had an opportunity to compete with the US team and we’re very proud of our win.”

Vetter moved to second on the 2019 world list behind his Team Europe teammate Magnus Kirt from Estonia who finished second to the German today, saving his best for the sixth round with 88.91m. Lithuania’s Edis Matusevicius made it a Team Europe clean sweep in third with 83.54m while reigning Olympic and European champion Thomas Rohler had to settle for fifth with 82.31m.

But Team Europe went even better in the men’s pole vault in which they swept the first four places. European champion Armand Duplantis cleared 5.85m on his first attempt to seal nine points ahead of Poles Piotr Lisek (5.80m) and Pawel Wojciechowski (5.75m) with Greece’s Konstadinos Filippidis clearing a season’s best of 5.75m to seal the sweep.

There was also some excellent high jumping from Ukraine’s Yuliya Levchenko who cleared seven successive heights from 1.87m through until 2.02m on her first attempts to lead Team Europe to the first three places. Her winning height was also a lifetime best, improving her two-year-old mark set at the IAAF World Championships in London by one centimetre.

"I'm happy that we get a lot of points for the team, all the girls in our team are strong and they are great athletes. It was a pleasure to work with them here, all of us like close friends," said Levchenko. 

Levchenko led a Ukrainian one-two from Iryna Herashchenko who cleared 1.98m to finish ahead of reigning two-time world champion Mariya Lasitskene who suffered her first defeat of the outdoor campaign. Competing with a support on her right knee, Lasitskene kept her individual ambitions alive by clearing 1.98m on her final attempt before one unsuccessful attempt each at 2.00m, 2.02m and 2.04m.

Austria's Lukas Weisshaidinger also led a one-two-three for Team Europe in the discus in which he produced the four best throws of the competition - 65.25m, 65.36m, 65.45m and 67.22m - ahead of Poland's Piotr Malachowski (64.89m) and Norway's Ola Stunes Isene (63.99m) while Poland's Joanna Fiodorow won the hammer with 74.34m ahead of Belarusian Hanna Malyshik's 72.70m. 

The track action began superbly for Team Europe as Spain’s Orlando Ortega led the home contingent to three of the top four places in the 110m hurdles, winning in 13.21 ahead of former world and European champion Sergey Shubenkov in 13.39.

“This race was amazing, I am very happy, satisfied with the results and proud for Europe, for our continent, so happy to be a part of such a wonderful team. All the athletes are so amazing and it was such a pleasure to compete with them,” said Ortega. 

The pattern was continued in the next track event although the outcome might not have been the anticipated one in the 800m as Adam Kszczot - for once - was bettered in a tactical encounter. Normally a banker in this sort of environment, Kszczot was hauled in by his Team Europe compatriot Amel Tuka - 1:46.77 to 1:46.89.

“A fast finish is natural for me, I like speed training,” said Tuka, the former world bronze medallist. “It can help me to have good results in races.” 

And Tuka wasn't quite done yet. Just over two hours later, Tuka was handed the baton in third position in the mixed medley relay (200m, 200m, 400m, 800m) but he produced a 1:46.63 split in the 800m to overhaul both American quartets in the home straight to suitably close the programme on a winning note for Team Europe in 3:21.13.

Reigning world and European champion Ramil Guliyev produced one of the most dominant wins of the weekend in the 200m. Guliyev arrived fresh from running 19.86 in the Brussels Diamond League and he was in similar form tonight, charging off the bend with a clear lead and amassing a winning margin of ten metres on his Team Europe teammate Eseosa Desalu, 20.16 to 20.66.

"It is a nice experience here, we can make lots of points for our team and that is what we're doing. All of the competitors are very strong and it's pleasant to compete with them," said Guliyev.

Team Europe also took a clean sweep of the places in the women's 400m hurdles as the three medallists from the European Championships in Berlin last year swept past a stricken Ashley Spencer who crashed to the track after clattering the final hurdle. 

Ukraine's Hanna Ryzhykova was the principal beneficiary, taking the win in 55.32 ahead of European champion Lea Sprunger from Switzerland (55.46) with Great Britain's Meghan Beesley third (55.49).

The entirety of The Match including the dedicated field event streams can be found on-demand on Eurovision Sport's All-Athletics' platform here.