The 37th version of the European Athletics Indoor Championships was just held in Istanbul, Turkey, and they were a resounding success.
The LOC, European Athletics, and the government of Turkey went to great lengths to encourage the success of the event, especially with the recent series of Earthquakes along the Turkish border and into Syria. EA made a donation of 1 Euro for each ticket sold in the Attakoy Arena for the Indoor Champs, held 2 March-5 March 2023.
This is the first event where CONICA is a preferred supplier for European Athletics.
CONICA is also a partner of Swiss Athletics, DLV/Deutsche Athletics, and FIDAL, the Italian Federation.
The championships were held over four days, with the first session held on the Thursday evening of 2 March. The first session featured 800m heats, women’s 3000m heats, men and women qualifying in the shot put, Men’s Triple Jump, and Men’s 1,500m heats.
The heats were tough, with athletes needing to finish in the top two or three to advance; one must focus on the round at hand, competing effectively and keeping one’s fitness and energy ready for a last-minute sprint or the need to add a clearance or a further throw. The athlete either performs, are, well, no more competition.
Pedro Pichardo of Portugal made a statement in the triple jump qualifying, setting an NR of 17.48m in qualifying, the only man over 17 meters.
On the first full day of competition (Friday, March 3), fans were able to witness a World record as Nafi Thiam, the Belgian Olympic and World Champion in the heptathlon, competed in a one-day fitness test called the pentathlon. Over the course of ten hours, Nafi Thiam and her compatriots ran the 60m hurdles, high jumped, threw the shot put, long jump, and finally, ran 800 meters, or four laps, on the indoor regulation 200m track.
Nafi Thiam was there to challenge the WR. Her PB in the 60m hurdles, 8.23, was followed by a strong 1.92m in the high jump, then a massive 15.55m throw in the show put, putting her 72 points up on the current WR, set in this facility way back in 2012 by Natalya Dobrinska of Ukraine (5,013 points). Thiam then scored a PB in the LJ of 6.57 meters, putting her in WR contention. In the final event, Nafi Thiam ran 2:13.60, giving her a total of 5,055 points, a new WR. For the geeks out there, Poland’s Adriana Sulek held the WR for 6.43 seconds, as she ran a 2:06 for the 800m, and that score of 5,014 points, breaking the WR just before Thiam’s massive WR score! Noor Vidts gave Belgium a second medal in the pentathlon, taking the bronze.
Day 1 was also a tough day for the women sprinters, as they withstood three rounds of the 60 meters. By the time the final came on Friday evening, it came down to three athletes, Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland, Eva Swoboda of Poland, and Darryl Neita of Great Britain. In the final, Mujinga Kambundji, SUI, showed her talent (World Indoor champion, European champion) with a swift 7.00 for the 60 meters, equaling the best time by a European athlete in 32 years! Ewa Swoboda, the POL, took silver in 7.09, and Darryl Neita took bronze in 7.11, giving the audience something to enjoy truly!
The Men’s Shot put gave Italy much to cheer about as Zane Weir, ITA, took control of the event with a massive 22.06m throw, taking gold for Italy, the first time an Italian was champion in the men’s shot put in 27 years. Tomas Stanek, CZE, defending champ, fought gallantly with Roman Kokoshko, UKR, delighting himself and the audience with his clutch throw for the bronze medal.
In the women’s shot put, Auriol Dongmo, POR, put together a fine series of throws, hitting 19.76 meters to show just how tough of a thrower that she is! In fact, she would have won with any of her four throws over 19 meters. Sara Gambetta, GER, took the silver, and Sweden’s Fanny Roos took the bronze.
The first round of the 400 meters on Friday showed the stars of the sport in great form. Femke Bol, NED, who had set WRs at 400m and 500m this indoor season, ran relaxed but with authority over the two-lap distance. WR holder at the 400m hurdles, Karsten Warholm, NOR, ran with abandon and moved to the tough day, two races on Saturday.
The 800 meters for men had been tough from round 1 on Thursday, where three top athletes did not advance, but Benjamin Robert, FRA, Guy Learmouth, GBR, and Ben Aiden, ESP, looked especially good. Friday was not different, as Robert, Learmouth, and Aiden ran well, waiting, with tough, tough races to move to Sunday’s final. In the women’s 800m, Keely Hodgkinson, the defending champion and only woman under 2 minutes this year in Europe, just took the lead from the first steps and won both rounds convincingly.
The Women’s 3000m final was a high point for the German team, as Konstanze Klosterhalfen took the lead early, followed by Hannah Klein, the 2021 EA Indoor Champ, at the 1,500m. Klosterhalfen had run five 3000m races in twelve days and just did not have an answer for the brilliant finish by Hannah Klein, who ran a PB 8:35.60 to take gold. Klosterhalfen took silver, and Melissa Courtney-Bryant, GBR, took the bronze in the 3,000m.
Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo set an NR in the TJ qualifying on Thursday night and came back Friday to take gold in 17.60m and a second NR. In the bronze, Michael Hess, GER, took his 4th medal in an EIC with his return to form.
The men’s 1,500-meter final on Friday was highly anticipated. How would Jakob Ingebrigtsen fare with Neil Gourley, GBR, and others? The Norwegian superstar took the pace out honestly, 58.7 for 400m, 1:55.6 for 800m, and began a long drive to home. Neil Gourley made two attempts to go by in the final furlong, but Jakob Ingebritsen was not letting another Scotsman defeat him over 1,500m, and Norway had its first gold medal of the games! Azeddine Habz, FRA, fought hard to take the bronze.
The men’s 60 meters was a highlight of Saturday, with three rounds, a 60m heat in the morning, followed by the semi-final in the evening, and the final event on Saturday, the men’s 60 meters. Samuele Ceccarelli, the newly crowned 60m champ of Italy, who had just upset Marcell Jacobs, the Olympic, and World Indoor champion, as well as EA Indoor defending champ, looked fast. In the semi-final, where Ceccarelli won well, Marcell Jacobs took the win in the second semi-final but grimaced an ominous sign! In the final, Italy went gold and silver, but again, an upset as Samuele Ceccarelli ran a swift 6.47, with Marcell Jacobs, who overcame a poor start, to take silver in 6.51, and Hendrik Larsson, SWE, surprising himself, to set an NR and take the bronze.
On Saturday, the second full day of competition, the 400-meter runners had a semi-final in the morning followed by a final in the evening.
On the women’s side, no one could touch Femke Bol, who ran 49.86, becoming the first woman to run under 50 seconds three times, on the boards in one season. Teammate Leike Klaver, NED, was the silver medalist, and Poland’s Anna Kielbasinska took third.
The men’s race proved to be a truly satisfying race, as Karsten Warholm was surprised by Belgium’s Julien Watrin, who charged over the last 50 meters to nearly catch Warholm. Karsten Warholm leaped at the finish line to defend his gold from Toruń 2021. In bronze, Carl Bergstrom, SWE, slipped in with a gutty race!
The heptathlon was held on Saturday and Sunday, and it was seven events over just two days. Kevin Mayer added a third European Indoor title to his medal chest, which already included two Olympic silver medals.
In the 60m hurdles for women, Nadine Visser, NED, had won in Glasgow 2019 and Toruń 2021. Could she medal defend her title? Finn Reetta Hurske, who had just set a Finnish NR, had other ideas, and Ditaji Kambundji, SUI, the little sister of Mujinga Kambundji, had ideas of her own.
In the men’s 60-meter hurdles, the biggest surprise was Pascal Martinot Lagarde, FRA, former EIC gold medalist, did not make it out of the heats. Joseph, SUI, showed the Swiss penchant for the hurdles, in both men and women, as he lead through round 1.
The pole vault is always a challenging event, and Wilma Murto, Finland, reminded the women’s field just who had won the European outdoor, setting a NR as she took gold. Tina Sutlej, SLO, and the University of Arkansas Razorback took the silver, and Amalie Svabikova, CZE, was bronze. Olympic and European champion Katerina Stefanidi finished 4th, just out of the medals.
The night after the 1,500m gold medal, Jakob Ingebrigtsen won his semifinal in the 3000m. The very tired Norwegian showed his humanness as one could see he was exhausted. Was this going to give his competitors a chance to end his two-gold dream?
The women’s 1,500m final was an enthralling race. Michaela Bobacea, Romania, had never won a European medal, indoor or out. She lead heroically, 64.16 for 400m, 2:10.5 for 800m, and 3:12 at 1200. Laura Muir, GBR, who had won in Glasgow 2019 and wanted this title, made a first move with 250 to go, but Bobacea would not relinquish, so the Scot put the kick into hyperspace and pushed to her fifth gold medal at a European Indoor championship! Bobacea held on for silver, and Sofia Ennaoui, the POL middle distance, took the bronze.
One of the true highlights of Saturday night was the win in the Women’s TJ by Tugba Danismaz, TUR, who leaped 14.31m in her first jump. Dariya Derkach, ITA, was inspired and took the silver, with Patricia Mamona, POR, who many thought might take gold, was relegated to the bronze.
Sunday was the final day, and what an ending to four nights and three days in Istanbul!
The women’s HJ was won by defending champion Yaroslava Mahuckikh in 1.98m. The silver medal went to Britt Weerman, NED, and the bronze medal was to another Ukrainian athlete, Kateryna Tabashynk.
The men’s high jump final had much drama. Douwe Amels added to the medal count of the Netherlands with his gold. Andri Protosenko, UKR, gave it his all but could not take the gold, winning silver. Thomas Carmoy, BEL, surprised a few with his strong bronze medal.
The men’s pole vault did not have Mondo Duplantis, who called his indoor campaign to a close after his WR of 6.22m at the All-Star Perche. Norwegian Sondre Guttormsen took the gold in a tough battle. Greece’s Emmanouli Karalsis took the silver, and long-time Polish superstar Piotr Lisek took the bronze.
The women’s LJ proved to be very exciting. In the fifth round, Jazmin Sawyers, GBR, leaped 7.00m to take the lead and hold onto the gold. Larissa Iapichino, daughter of Coach Joe Iapichino and Fiona May, two-time Olympic silver medalist, and two-time WC in the long jump, leaped 6.97m on her last jump and stole the silver from Ivana Vuleta, SERB, who took the bronze in 6.91m. In fourth, a huge surprise, Malaika Mihambo, World Champion, Olympic champion, and European champion, could not answer the jumps by the Brit or the Italian jumpers.
The men’s 4×400 meters were so tough, as they can be. Spain took a commanding lead, but the Belgian team brought them back, and in the last fifty meters, the Belgian team took gold, then France, then the Netherlands! Spain was relegated to fourth.
In the women’s 4x400m, the Netherlands put together a fine team, with Leike Klaver and Femke Bol in anchor, and a Champ record was set of 3:25. Italy’s women’s 4x400m battled for the silver medal. Poland’s vet team took the bronze.
The men’s long jump on Saturday was a class on how to dominate an event. Miltiadis Tentoglou, GRE, leaped to the lead in 8.30m on his first jump. Tobias Montler, SWE, answered in 8.19m as the Greek and Swede battled all session. Romania’s Gabriel Bitan took the bronze with his 8.00m jump. The Olympic champion, Tentoglou, had a large contingent of fans in the arena.
The heptathlon, a grueling battle over two days with seven events, came down to two-time Olympic silver medalist Kevin Mayer, FRA, who added a third gold to his European Indoor medal chest! Sander Skotheim, NOR, earned that silver with some gutty performances over the seven days, and Risto Lillemets, EST, took bronze, continuing a grand tradition in the multi-events for his country of Estonia.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen completed his double, taking the 3000m gold. His tactics, winding up the pace, included a last 2k in 4:58, which was a 4-minute mile, and a final 400m in 58 seconds (or 1k splits of 2:42, 2:33, 2;25!) Adel Mechaal, ESP took silver and surprise bronze by Elizan Bibic of Serbia.
The 800 meters, in both men’s and women’s races, lived up to the hype.
In the women’s race, Keely Hodgkinson took the lead and ran hard from the start, not leaving anything to chance, and defended her gold medal from Toruń 2021. Anita Hvorat, SLO, who had looked fantastic in the rounds, took the silver and battled Agnes Raharolahy, FRA, who took the bronze.
The men’s 800m was a slam fest. The bumping began in the first 200m, and by 300m a tough bumping put Guy Learmouth, GBR, a five-time EIC competitor, out of medal contention. Benjamin Robert, FRA, looked fantastic, running tough through 400m in 53.47, 600m, and leading with 30 meters to go. Spanish athlete Ben Adrien made this incredible move, clawing his way up from fifth to the gold medal, in 1:47.24, the same as Robert. In the bronze medal, Elliot Crestan stayed on his feet and took the third medal.
The meet ended with the 60m hurdles.
In the women’s 60m, Finland’s Reeta Hurska took gold, confirming that she is the top hurdler in Europe this season. Nadine Visser, NED, did not give up her title willingly, taking silver in a strong race. In bronze, Ditaji Kambundji took another medal for Switzerland and the Kambundji family.
The final event of the weekend was the men’s 60m hurdles, and Jason Joseph, SUI, who had led the event in Europe all season, ran 7.41, the #2 time in the 60m hurdles in Europe ever, second behind Colin Jackson! Jakub Szymanski, POL, was silver and Just Kwaou-Mathey, FRA, hung on for the bronze.
Spanish hurdler Enrique Llopis hit the final hurdle and had to be taken off the track by stretcher, spending a night in the hospital. Llopis, via social media noted on Monday that he was doing well and he would be released from the hospital on Tuesday morning to fly home to Spain. We are all happy that he is doing much better.
The 37th version of the European Athletics Indoor Championships was another example of the amazing star power and fitness of the European Athletic community. The streaming video of the event was provided by AllAthletics.TV was seen across the globe as European Athletics continues to attract fans of all ages to our amazing sport.
Full results of 2023 European Indoor Athletics Championships, Istanbul, Turkey, March 2-5, 2023: https://istanbul23results.european-athletics.com/en/results/athletics/daily-schedule.htm
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