AMSTERDAM: Britain’s Greg Rutherford defended his European long jump title on Thursday, but Dutch veteran Churandy Martina shocked French favourite Jimmy Vicaut to claim gold in the 100m.
There was also a memorable victory on the second day of action of the European Athletics Championships for Thomas van der Plaetsen, the Belgian decathlete just returning to competition after having suffered testicular cancer last year.
Rutherford, also the reigning world, Olympic and Commonwealth champion, was given a stern test at Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium by Michel Torneus, the Swede jumping 8.21m on his first effort.
The Briton could only manage 8.12 before twice no-jumping and then increasing his mark by 1cm, before going out to 8.25 on his fifth attempt.
Two desperate final efforts by Torneus no-marked to allow Rutherford to continue his amazing big-competition winning record, the Swede taking silver.
“Although 8.25 isn’t very big, it’s good to be the best of Europe again,” Rutherford said. “It’s now about being the best of the world again. I now have five major titles and not many athletes can say that.
“If I win the Olympics in Rio, then I’ll have each title in double.”
Home favourite Martina produced a late surge to shock Vicaut in a tense 100m, which had to be restarted following Briton Richard Kilty’s disqualification for a false start.
The Dutchman showed all his 200m prowess with a flawless final 50 metres after finding himself at the back of the field following a sluggish start, clocking a season’s best of 10.07 seconds.
Vicaut, in 10.08sec, was beaten into third by Jamaican-born Turk Jak Ali Harvey, who lost out by a matter of thousandths of a second on Martina.
“I did my best, I ran well!” beamed Martina. “The false start from one of the others was a brilliant start for me.
“I did the second a little safer, but I ran a good race.”
Vicaut called his bronze medal performance a “failure”.
“I was targeting gold and I finished third,” the Parisian said. “I’ll head home and rest up a bit. I don’t even know if it’s the biggest disappointment of my career, we’ll see in Rio.
“Rio is more important than the Europeans.”
In the gruelling two-day decathlon, van der Plaetsen was left ecstatic after what has been a tough year after overcoming cancer, notching up a total score of 8,218pts. Czech Adam Helcelet took silver (8,157), just four points ahead of Serbian Mihail Dudas.
“It’s difficult to say if this is my greatest win ever, but it is definitely the one which I cherish the most,” said van der Plaetsen.
“After everything that has happened over the last year, that is why this has so much significance. It’s been a fantastic comeback on a high level.”
German shot putter Christina Schwanitz joined Rutherford in defending her title, dominating her competition with a best of 20.17m, her closest rival Anita Marton of Hungaria winning silver with 18.72.
There were second golds on the night for both Britain and Germany by way of Dina Asher-Smith (200m) and Cindy Roleder (100m hurdles) respectively.
Asher-Smith timed 22.37sec in winning the 200m from 2012 champion Ivet Lalova-Collio of Bulgaria (22.52).
Roleder clocked 12.62sec to edge out Belarus’ Alina Talay (12.68), with US-born Briton Tiffany Porter taking bronze (12.76).
Spaniard Ruth Beitia won the women’s high jump with a best of 1.98m while Latvian Zigismunds Sirmais produced a personal best of 86.66m to claim a shock men’s javelin victory over Vitezslav Vesely, the 2013 world champion from the Czech Republic.