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Posted: March 6, 2009  : Add to Mixx!

(TPR) Athletics: Doucoure And Berings Take Hurdles Titles, Bogdanova Dominates Pentathlon On First Night Of European Indoor Championships

From Bob Ramsak
© 2009 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved

Turin, ITALY - A dominating performance by Anna Bogdanova, a surprise victories by Ladji Doucouré and Eline Berings in the 60m Hurdles and some final round drama in the women’s shot put were the chief highlights on the first evening of competition at the 30th European Athletics Indoor Championships in Turin.

- Bogdanova Never Threatened

Bogdanova, the reigning world pentathlon bronze medallist indoors, dominated the proceedings on the Lingotto Oval to succeed Carolina Kluft as the continent’s multi-event champion. The 24-year-old Russian led from the morning’s first event en route to a 4761 point tally, just 23 points shy of her career best.

“I was preparing myself very seriously for this season,” said Bogdanova, whose 4784 PB from last month elevated her to the No. 10 position all-time. “I did not want to skip the indoor season.”

Bogdanova reached 6.39m in the long jump to bring a 160 point lead into the final event, and while her 2:21.84 run in the 800 was well behind the rest of the pack, she still finished with a 117 point advantage over Dutchwoman Jolanda Keizer, whose 4644 tally was a career best.

A 6.44m leap, the farthest of the competition, lifted Frenchwoman Antoinette Nana Djimou into third heading into the 800m, a position she managed to defend, tallying 4618, also a career best for the Cameroun-born 23-year-old.

“When I came to Turin I knew tat I could be on the podium,” said Nana Djimou, whose previous best was 4487 set at last month’s national championships. This medal gives me a lot of motivation for the summer.”

Olga Kurban, last year’s Russian champion, was fourth, collecting 4576 points.

- Doucouré Surprises Even Himself

In a furious finish, the men’s 60m hurdles title wasn’t decided until a reading of a photo. But in the end of was the Frenchman who narrowly defeated reigning champion Gergory Sedoc to signal a return to the upper echelon of the continent’s hurdling elite.

“My start was bad and then I hit a hurdle so I thought I would fall,” said Doucoure, who edged the Dutchman as both were credited with 7.55. “The race was far from ideal but I don’t care! I could rely on my experience.” Doucoure also took the title in 2005.

Petr Svoboda, who lowered the Czech record to 7.55 in the semis, rebounded from a sluggish start to finish third in 7.61, narrowly edging Briton Andy Turner (7.62).

- Berings’ Rapid Indoor Rise Concludes with European 60m Hurdles Title

Capping a strong rise which began with her first sub-eight second performance less than two weeks ago, Berings held off a furious late-race challenge to take a narrow victory in the sprint hurdles.

“I am so excited,” said the 22-year-old Belgian, who lowered her own national record to 7.92 to conclude the season as the fastest European. “It was a great indoor season with three national records.”

Leading from the first hurdle, Berings managed her acceleration well and had just enough of an edge to hold off the powerful finishing surges by Czech Lucie Skrobakova (7.95) and Ireland’s Derval O’Rourke (7.97). For the Czech, it was a national record and notable improvement from her previous 8.03 record.

Berings said that former Belgian stars Kim Gaevert and Tia Hellebaut were a major inspiration. With the pair’s retirement last year, it seems that Berings’ rise has come just in time to fill the void left by the former European sprint champion and Olympic high jump champion.

- World lead, PB and first major accolade for Lammert

Petra Lammert, one of the more consistent European shot putters in recent years, wasted little time to show that she had arrived in Turin ready to claim the first major title of her career. Beating back recent elbow problems, she reached 19.66m with her first round effort, a world leader indoors, a personal best for the German, and a toss that seemingly put the competition out of reach.

“When my first throw went so far I was sure that I had a safe gold medal,” said Lammert, who was fourth at the championships in Madrid four years ago.

But her compatriot Denise Hinrichs had other ideas.

As Lammert followed up her big opening round toss with four consecutive fouls, Hinrichs improved steadily from her opening 18.78m toss, first to 19.18m, then 19.43m, the latter a PB. But it was her final throw which Lammert conceded, “had me shaking!” At 19.63m, Hinrichs came up just short, but was obviously pleased. There’s was the first 1-2 finish for Germany since reunification.

Romanian Anca Heltne was the best of the rest, taking the bronze with an 18.71 effort from the third round, well ahead of Russian Anna Omarova (18.37m). Defending champion Assunta Legnante from Italy couldn’t do better that fifth (18.05m).

- No Major Surprises in Qualifying Rounds

As she did a few hours earlier in the morning session’s opening round, world leader Antonina Krivoshapka dominated the semis of the 400m, cruising to a comfortable 51.59 win the second of two heats. The 22-year-old Russian easily outdistanced compatriot Natalya Antyukh (52.90) and Briton Donna Fraser (53.59) who took the remaining two automatic qualifying spots.

Improving her season’s best for the second time today, Ukraine’s Nataliya Pyhyda won the first heat in 52.63 and appears to be the only one capable of spoiling a Russian podium sweep in tomorrow’s final. Russian Darya Safonova (52.86) and Italian Daniela Reina (53.21) also moved on.

In the men’s 400m, world leader Claudio Licciardello thrilled the near-capacity crowd with his comfortable and front-running 46.31 to lead all qualifiers. The shock of the semis was the departure of two-time defending champion David Gillick who fell to the ground after some contact with Romanian Ioan Vieru. Irish officials appealed, but it was rejected.

With just two runners eliminated, there was little drama in the opening round of the women’s 800m. Primary attention was focused on the third of three heats, where defending champion Oksana Zbrozhek of Russia and local favourite and world leader Elisa Cusma crossed the line first and second. Zbrozhek, who raced sparingly outdoors after beating a strong field in Birmingham two years ago, didn’t race at all in 2008, but has exhibited strong form this winter, particularly with her marked improvement in the 1500m to 4:03.86, and with runner-up finishes in the 800 and 1500m at the always difficult Russian Championships.

Likewise the men’s opening round of the 800 produced no major surprises. Mattias Claesson of Sweden lead all qualifiers with a 1:47.83 clocking. Looking particularly strong was former Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy who cruised to victory in heat four. The only notable non-qualifier was Pole Pawel Czapiewski.

The quickest of the round was first heat winner Jennifer Meadows (2:03.11) of Great Britain, who was fifth two years ago.

In the 1500m, Anna Alminova got her weekend double ambitions off to a good start with her safe run in the second heat of two heats. The Russian, who has emerged this winter as a strong middle and long distance threat, played it safe with a front-running effort to win in 4:11.44 over Spaniard Natalie Rodriguez.

The first heat was somewhat similar, with Slovenian Sonja Roman taking the lead from the gun, and controlling the race until Russian Yevgeniya Zolotova, who shadowed her over the last 400m, moved to the front over the final lap to win in 4:11.31, with Roman and defending champion Lidia Chojecka taking the remaining two automatic slots for tomorrow afternoon’s final. But for Alminova, her day on the track will start about six hours earlier with a qualifying run in the 3000m.

Marija Sestak, the world indoor bronze medallist from Slovenia, equaled her season’s best of 14.52m with her first leap to lead all qualifying in the women’s triple jump. Only Greek teenager Paraskevi Papahristou, came remotely close after a 14.47m effort, a massive improvement from her pre-Turin best of 14.16m.

Seven of the eight qualifiers for Saturday’s women’s pole vault final sailed over 4.40m. Russians Yuliya Golubchikova and Aleksandra Kiryashova and Anna Battke of Germany had the easiest afternoon, taking just a pair of jumps each.

In the men’s high jump, 2.27m was the cut-off. Five jumpers, including overwhelming favorite Ivan Ukhov from Russia, topped 2.30m.

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