BERLIN (Reuters) - 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’.
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 Poland’s Paulina Guba spoiled the script with a 19.33 winner in the sixth and last round.
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.
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.
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.
The night’s one track final saw Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, a former Kenyan who took Israeli citizenship in 2016, run away from the field in the 10,000 metres, winning in 31min 43.29sec to give her adopted country its first-ever European track gold.
“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, who first came to Israel 10 years ago as a nanny for the children of Kenya’s ambassador there and ended up marrying her Israeli coach.
The dream of Norway’s remarkable Ingebrigtsen brothers to achieve a unique podium sweep in the 1,500 metres final remains alive — but only after reigning champion Filip Ingebrigtsen had to overcome a real scare in the morning semis.
All three brothers — 25-year-old Filip, 27-year-old Henrik and 17-year-old Jakob — qualified for Friday’s final but Filip, winner in Amsterdam two years ago, had to pick himself off the floor to do so.
As the second heat dawdled along on the second lap in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, two athletes fell to the track after a collision on the back straight and Filip also ended up tumbling over them in the melee.
Coolly, though, he picked himself up despite a gashed leg, managed to rejoin the main pack and had enough energy left in reserve to sprint into the third of the three automatic qualifying spots.
“I just had to get up and get started again but it costs you when you fall and have to start again,” said Filip, who disappeared to have the wound stitched after the race.
Their presence in the final will delight Norwegian sport as the story of the three middle-distance siblings who have all risen under the guidance of their father and coach Gjert has become headline news there.
“It’s going to be a very interesting final for sure. If anyone wants to join the Ingebrigtsen party, please do so,” smiled Henrik, the most flamboyant of the trio with his mohawk and moustache. “I believe in my brothers.”
Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar