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Tomashova Leads Russian Victory Parade - European Champs Day Seven
By Bob Ramsak
August 13, 2006
Courtesy of IAAF

Gothenburg, Sweden - Topped by a 1-2 finish in a fabulous and fast 1500, Russian women underscored their continental dominance as the 19th European Athletics Championships concluded on Sunday (13).

Competing again in the windy, wet and chilly conditions that hindered the last few days of the championships, the Russian women's squad won four the five events contested on the final day to increase their total medal haul to 28, a staggering 40 percent of the medals. Two of those came in an event Russians have dominated in recent years, and predictably dominated here.

Tomashova over Chizhenko

With a pair of world titles and an Olympic silver to her credit, Tatyana Tomashova has a proven track record in major competitions, and in Gothenburg, she added to her resume after her powerful homestretch kick left compatriot Yuliya Chizhenko lost in the proverbial dust.

"The race went as I wanted, I was ready for any pace and for any weather," said Tomashova, who finished third four years ago.

Chizhenko dictated the pace from the gun and kept it fast, setting up what was thought to be a solid podium sweep threat, with Yelena Soboleva, the World Indoor record holder as the Russian No. 3. Soboleva and Tomashova followed Chizhenko single file through the bell, when the latter two opened a slight gap entering the back straight. Tomashova moved into the lead with 250 metres to go, and simply out- powered Chizhenko to the finish. Her 3:56.91 eclipsed the meeting record set 24 years ago, with Chizhenko, in 3:57.61, dipped under the previous record of 3:57.80 as well.

"I did all that I could," said Chizhenko, satisfied with silver. "Tatyana was simply better in finish."

Soboleva, who has run under 3:57 this year, faded badly down the homestretch, and was eventually passed by Bulgarian Daniela Yordanova (3:59.37) in the final 60 metres to foil the podium sweep. Soboleva (4:00.36) did manage to hold off Pole Lidia Chojecka (4:01.43), to finish fourth.

Kolchanova leads Russian 1-3 in the Long Jump

Another pair of medals for the Russian women's team came in the Long jump. For world leader Lyudmila Kolchanova, her opening round 6.89 leap would have sufficed to take the gold, but the 26-year-old added some insurance with a 6.93 in the third round to secure her first major title.

"I wanted to jump better, but in this weather it was not possible," said Kolchanova, a former high jumper who reached a world leading 7.11 in Tula in July. "Technically it was not very good, but of course I'm satisfied."

Portuguese record holder Naide Gomes came closest with a wind- assisted 6.84 in the fourth round to take the silver. Producing a consistent series, her back-up 6.79 and 6.73 efforts were each better than Oksana Udmurtova's wind-aided 6.69 best, which propelled the Russian to the bronze.

Russian sweep in women's relays

The Russian ladies' last day gold parade began with the first women's event to be decided today - the 4x100 metre relay - and ended with the last, the 4x400 relay.

In the one lap race, the quartet of Yuliya Gushchina, Natalya Rusakova, Irina Khabarova and Yekaterina Grigoryeva cruised to a convincing 42.71 victory well ahead of the runner-up British squad. British anchor Joice Maduaka ran down Aksana Druhan of Belarus to take the silver by a tenth of a second in 43.51. Ukraine was a distant fourth in 43.97 with Sweden's all-star quartet - Susanna and Jenny Kallur, Carolina Kluft and Emma Green - fifth (44.16). Medal threat France fumbled the last exchange, and did not finish.

Virtually from the outset the four lap relay was a battle for second. Here too a Russian quartet that included individual silver and bronze medalists Tatyana Veshkurova and Olga Zaytseva dominated the proceedings with a 3:25.12 victory, more than two seconds clear of Belarus (3:27.69). Anna Jesien finished strong to anchor Poland to the bronze (3:27.77) with Great Britain a distant fourth in 3:28.18.

Elusive title for Nerius in the Javelin Throw

The lone event on the women's final day programme that did not involve Russia was the women's Javelin Throw, won by Germany's Steffi Nerius to step up a notch from her runner-up finish four years ago and the first major win for the 34-year-old veteran.

Czech national record holder Barbora Spotakova opened with strong 65.64 effort, a throw that held up until Nerius reached 65.82 in the fourth round, a season's best for the Olympic silver medallist who also has a pair of World championship bronze medals.

After a pair of fouls, Mercedes Chilla of Spain reached 61.98 in the fifth round to take the bronze, keeping world leader Christina Obergfoll (61.98) of Germany from the podium.

Baldini returns to the podium top step

With his victory in the Marathon, Stefano Baldini showed that he just may be one of the best Europeans to have ever raced over the distance. With his seemlingly effortless 2:11:32 win, the 35-year-old can now boast a resume that includes an Olympic gold, a pair of World Championships bronze, and now a pair of European titles.

"My strategy was to be patient, and to wait," said Baldini, who won his first title in 1998. "It was an amazing race because everybody wanted to stay in front."

For much of the race, he was near the front, patiently waiting until the pack dwindled to just Switzerland's Victor Rothlin and himself. The Swiss record holder, who was 16th in Munich four years ago after being tripped early in the race, said he wanted to lead this time around to avoid a repeat. Both looked remarkably strong in the waning kilometres, building a lead of nearly 50 seconds by the 40 kilomtre mark. Moments later, Baldini simply surged away to reach the line 18 seconds clear of Rothlin's 2:11:50.

Despite finishing runner-up, Rothlin was thrilled. "I didn't lose gold," he said, "I won silver."

Spaniard Julio Rey, who nearly dropped out due to stomach problems, hung in and finished third 2:12:37 to repeat his podium finish of four years ago, ahead of Dutchman Luc Krotwaar (2:12:44), who came up a little short in his dash over the final lap.

Janne Holmen, the surprise winner four years ago, kept with pack through the first half, but faded in the lat kilomtres to finish seventh (2:13:10).

Of the four 1998 champions competing here - Lars Riedel, Dietzsch, and Melinte were the others - Baldini was the only one who managed to win.

Aberbukh defends

Defending champions should always have it this easy. Israeli Alexandr Averbukh needed just two jumps to retain his title in the Pole Vault. In an unusually long competition hampered by poor conditions and a starting field of 20, Averbukh's first-attempt 5.70 was enough to become the fourth back-to-back winner.

"It was difficult because of the weather and number of competitors," said Averbukh, who also has a silver medal from the 2001 World Championships to his credit. "The key to the win was the first good attempt at 5.50, then I got enough confidence for 5.70."

Four others topped out at 5.65, including silver medallist German Tim Lobinger, who was third four years ago and second four years before that. Romain Mesnil of France took the bronze, with Finn Matti Mononen and Przemyslaw Czerwinski fourth and fifth. Lars Borgeling, the silver medallist four years ago, failed three times at his opening height of 5.50.

Averbukh joined Francis Obikwelu, Mehdi Baala, Christian Olsson and Roman Sebrle as successful title defenders.

Espana kicks to 5000 title

Spain's much vaunted men's distance corps had to wait all week before taking home a win; fittingly, it was won by a man with the surname Espana.

The race didn't begin to fully unfold until the lap when Briton Mo Farah took the bell with 12:49.05 on the clock. Turk Halil Akkas follwed closely, with Jesus Espana another step behind. With the Turk beginning to fade, Espana moved into second and eventually made his move for the lead as he came off the final bend. Farah held off the challenge briefly, but the Spaniard eventually prevailed, reaching the line in 13:44.70 to the Briton's 13:44.79. With a desparate lunge at the finish, Juan Carlos Higuero denied Halil Akkas Turkey's first medal, 13:46.48 to 13:46.53, to take his second bronze of the week.

Ireland's Alistair Cragg, who made a move for the front with just over 1200 metres to go, was forced to drop out about 50 metres later after sustaining what was initially reported as an Achilles injury.

Som over Fiegen in an 800 thriller

After a hard fought and feisty homestretch run, Bram Som emerged from a crowded pack to win the 800 in 1:46.56, the first and only medal for the Dutch men at these championships.

Dmitrijs Milkevics, the Latvian who this year joined event's sub-1:44 club and among the pre-race favourites, chose to dictate the tempo, and led the tightly-knit pack into the final straight. With 80 metres to go, David Fiegen of Luxembourg moved into second, with Briton Sam Ellis and Som fighting for position as well. The Dutchman decided to be the most aggressive, and needled by the Latvian on the inside to steal the narrow win, with Fiegen (1:46.59) and Ellis (1:46.64) also inching past Milkevics to leave the Latvian empty-handed.

The homestraight contact resulted in a number of protests and counter- protests, all of which were ultimately rejected.

Relays titles to Great Britain and France

Great Britain, the Olympic champions in the 4x100 metre Relay, were the favourites in Gothenburg as well, and quite handily managed to beat back the opposition en route to a 38.91 victory. Poland, with an inspired anchor Dariusz Kuc, took the silver in 39.05, just 2/100s ahead of France.

In the 4x400, 400 metre champion Marc Racquil was in second when Naman Keita handed the baton, but he nonetheless managed to run down Polish anchor Rafal Wieruszewski in the final 60 metres to anchor the French to gold in 3:01.10, their first in the event since 1969. With a strong finish of his own, Briton Tim Benjamin slipped by the Pole on the insides to anchor the British to the silver (3:01.63 to 3:01.73). Germany a distant fourth in 3:02.83.

Total attendance was 269,137 over the seven days of competition, topped by the crowd of 32,557 that attended the evening session on Friday, 11 August.


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