Latest update: 02/08/2010
France win thrilling relay final, hat-trick of golds for Lemaitre
French sprint king Christophe Lemaitre (pictured, second from right) won his third gold of the European Championships on Sunday as his country raced to a close victory in the men's 4x100m relay. Italy took silver and Germany came home in third.
AP - Christophe Lemaitre became the first athlete to win three golds at the European Championships after helping France win the 4x100 relay title on Sunday’s final night of competition.
Lemaitre ran the second leg down the back straight before anchor Martial Mbandjock raced past Italy’s Maurizio Checcucci for France to clock 38.11 seconds. Italy took silver in 38.17 and Germany claimed the bronze in 38.44 at Barcelona’s Olympic stadium.
“We panicked a little in the last few meters when we saw the Italians right on our tail,” said Lemaitre, who ran a quick leg but had a difficult handover. “They were running very fast but Martial did an excellent job for us.”
Lemaitre became the first Frenchman to win the 100-200 sprint double - and the seventh overall - earlier in the championships and his treble helped France finish the six-day event only two golds short of Russia’s event-leading tally of 10.
Russia closed the event by winning both 4x400 relays, Tatyana Firova earning a second gold after her individual 400 victory.
Yuliya Zarudneva captured the 3,000 steeplechase as Russia won the overall standings with 24 medals to France’s 18. Britain won six golds and 19 medals. Germany claimed 16 medals, including four golds after Christian Rief’s record-breaking leap in the men’s long jump.
Blanka Vlasic added a European title to her growing list of victories, the Croat setting a competition-record height of 2.03 meters to finish ahead of Sweden’s Emma Green and Ariane Friedrich of Germany.
“This is not an easy season for me, I’m not myself this year,” said Vlasic, who pounded her fists into some advertising banners and roared at the crowd after winning. “I had zero confidence tonight and was struggling. Luckily it was enough.”
Defending champion Tia Hellebaut of Belgium finished fifth after failing to clear 1.97.
Alemitu Bekele won the women’s 5,000 to deny Turkish teammate Elvan Abeylegesse a double distance gold. The two Ethiopian-born runners fought to the final bend before Bekele surged ahead to finish in 14:52.20. Portugal’s Sara Moreira came third.
Nurai Fernandez of Spain won the 1,500 ahead of France’s Hind Dehiba. Natalia Rodriguez of Spain took bronze. The Montjuic crowd rang out chants of “Ole!” as a tearful Fernandez accepted her medal.
Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad led Bouabdellah Tahri in a 1-2 sweep for France of the men’s 3,000 steeplechase in 8:07.87. Spain’s Jose Luis Blanco took bronze.
Christine Arron faded down the stretch as Yelizaveta Bryzhina surged past to give Ukraine the women’s 4x100 relay gold in 42.29 seconds. Poland took bronze.
Piotr Malachowski of Poland threw the discus 68.87 meters in a Europeans record.
Viktor Rothlin made up for European silver four years ago with a victory in the men’s marathon to give Switzerland its first gold.
“This was my 19th marathon and it felt like the first,” said Rothlin, who clocked 2:15:31. “My career might as well have been over after today, but the only thing I can say now is that I’m back.”
Spain’s Jose Manuel Martinez _ a former European champion in the 10,000 _ won silver ahead of Russia’s Dmitriy Safronov in hot, humid conditions on the streets of Barcelona.
Stefano Baldini’s return to defend his title ended early when he pulled up nearly halfway through the race. The 39-year-old Italian, the 2004 Olympic champion, hadn’t competed since finishing 12th at the 2008 Beijing Games.