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Germany cheers Abele after Guba rains on Schwanitz show

August 10, 2018

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BERLIN: Germany’s Arthur Abele celebrates winning the decathlon competition at the European Championships.—AP
BERLIN: Germany’s Arthur Abele celebrates winning the decathlon competition at the European Championships.—AP

BERLIN: Arthur Abele finally delivered for Germany as an anti-climactic night for the hosts on Wednesday turned into a glorious one with the Olympic Stadium roaring home the 32-year-old journeyman to European Championships decathlon gold.

The first-day injury to world champion Kevin Mayer may have opened the door to the rest of the continent’s top all-rounders but it was Abele, too often beset by injuries since winning a European junior silver 13 years ago, who raced through it.

Abele was reduced to tears after taking the title on a brutally hot and draining day with a relatively modest 8,431 points, 110 clear of Russian Ilya Shkurenyov, competing as an ‘Authorised Neutral Athlete’. Vitali Zhuk of Belarus took bronze.

US-based Briton Tim Duckworth, long-time leader after France’s world champion Kevin Mayer bombed out after just two events, paid the price for a poor run to come in fifth.

Abele became the oldest European decathlon champion. “To win it here in this stadium in front of my own fans, it’s unbelievable. After so many injuries and so many setbacks, I’m overjoyed,” said Abele, who had a cardboard crown placed on his head and was draped in the German flag.

Earlier, Germany’s shot put queen Christina Schwanitz had been writing her own fairytale after returning to the sport as the mother of twins. But at the last gasp, she was denied gold.

The crowd were ready to hail a third straight title for their 32-year-old favourite, who had led throughout with a 19.19 metres opener, until 12-time Polish shot put champion Paulina Guba spoiled the script with a 19.33 winner in the sixth and last round.

“It’s annoying when you know that you can easily throw another three-quarters of a metre,” said Schwanitz.

For the crowd, besotted with the story of the mother of one-year-old twins who only made her comeback in May but two weeks ago suffered concussion, whiplash and an injury to her throwing hand in car crash, it was a real anti-climax.

HARTING FINISHES SIXTH

They had already been left disappointed when another favourite, 2012 Olympic champion Robert Harting, was sixth in his final discus competition behind Lithuanian world champion Andrius Gudzius, who won with a last-round 68.46m throw.

Gudzius beat Daniel Stahl of Sweden (68.23) in a repeat of last year’s world 1-2 finish in London.

In the stadium where the showman’s grand career had taken off with a world title win in 2009, the 33-year-old Harting still took one last emotional bow.

“It was a momentous evening for me because the circle closes here. It comes as a bit of a downer though,” said Harting, who had been hoping to sign off with a medal. “There is a life after, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Harting’s younger brother Christoph, the Olympic champion, failed to qualify for the final.

There was also a rare gold for Israel in the women’s 10,000m with gold for Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, who left her native Kenya to work in Israel in 2008 as a nanny for the children of Kenya’s ambassador before meeting her husband-cum-coach there and then qualifying to run for the Jewish state in time for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Salpeter clocked 31min 43.29sec ahead of Dutchwoman Susan Krumins, with Eritrean-born Swede Meraf Bahta taking bronze. Double distance defending champion, Turkey’s Kenyan-born Yasemin Can, could only finish sixth.

It was only Israel’s fifth medal, and third gold, in 10 appearances at the European championships. “This medal is an honour for my flag, for my country and for me, for all the hard work I did for it,” said Salpeter.

Also, Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece produced a season-best 8.25 metres to win the men’s long jump ahead of home favourite Fabian Heinle, who jumped 8.13. World champion Kevin Mayer of France was eliminated with no mark on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2018