A rivalry renewed

In the 100m at the 2022 European Championships, Darryl Neita finished third but just 0.01 seconds behind Gina Lückenkemper and Mujinga Kambunji.  So near and yet so far.  In 2022, Kambundji had also won the 200 in 22.32. Neita entered the 100 this year but withdrew to concentrate on the 200. Kambundji was in the 100 but finished eighth.  In the 2024 semi-finals of the 200m, they were the two fastest – Neita 22.51, Kambundji 22.52.

In the final, despite being the fastest, Neita found herself in lane 8 and Kambundji in lane 6. Kambundji had the better start. There was nothing between them on the line—but of course, there were 0.01 seconds as usual. Again, this time, it was in Mujinga Kambundji’s favor.

Mujinga Kambundji, 200-meter champion, ROMA 2024, photo by European Athletics via Getty Images

The winner said afterwards: “I was happy to race, it was just that I have had a tough beginning of the season, it was not at all how I wanted it. At the 100m it got better yesterday, that gave me a lot of confidence and today I was just happy to race. I knew that it would be tight. Daryll is in a great shape. But I am over the moon to defend my title. I am usually calmer before the 200m, maybe because it is longer and I cannot lose too much energy. I was really calm; it gave me confidence. The win gives me a lot of confidence for Paris. This is just the first step, and Paris is the big goal. Now I know it is here, and I can work on different things. Two 200m gold medals for Switzerland, this is so crazy. I was so proud to see Timothe [Mumenthaler] win a medal. Also, my sister won a medal. It motivates me a lot seeing the other Swiss win medals”.

Darryl Neita, 2022 European Champs, photo by Munich 2022

Neita has had a great start to her season, having already won two Diamond League races. She expected more, as her honest comments conveyed: “I am honestly just so disappointed because I really wanted that gold medal. I know how much I should have got it [the gold]. I thought it was close on the line, I could feel myself dipping which isn’t my strongest thing. I am happy for the winner; I am not a bitter athlete. I’m upset at myself because I came here for the gold, but I’m grateful to finish the race healthy. It is still the middle of the season so I can’t let this dictate how my season goes, there are bigger things happening this season. I came here for the gold and I gave all I had, running a season’s best on this stage was not enough. I need to get back to work. Honestly, I do not know exactly what to work on at this very moment. I do not want to be too negative because a medal is still a medal, and it is still an achievement. But I really wanted that gold”.