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Russia top Team Champs

Russia take Team champs

Russia take Team champs

Together as one the Russian team waved and celebrated as they stood for the bank of photographers to capture the moment they had worked so hard for all weekend.

Once more, after a gripping afternoon at the Gateshead International Stadium, the same name was on top of the table at the 4th European Athletics Team Championships.

Russia were the champions for the third time in a row, winning by the small matter of seven points.
The difference, with their 354.5 beating Germany with 347.5 with Great Britain third with 338, just goes to show why this event remains one of the most exciting in all of track and field competitions.

Until the very end, the lead changed hands between Russia and Germany but that was not the case at the bottom as Belarus, Greece and Norway were relegated.

With the heavy rain meaning the women’s high jump was moved indoors on the complex here, those in the main arena were glued to the big screen to see the outcome as it had a big say on the final result.

In the end, Maria Kuchina’s personal best of 1.98m gave her team 12 final maximum points to rubberstamp their glory over Germany.

With just two events left, Russia were was just half a point ahead – 331.5 to 331.

But as Kuchina finished four places ahead of Germany’s Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch who had a best of 1.92m, Russia’s men finished second and ahead of fourth placed Germany in the final track event, the 4x400m.

On the two previous occasions Russia had won these European Athletics Team Championships with emphatic victories. Not this time, and it made for fantastic viewing.

But after four individual victories on Saturday, Russia won six more events on this second day as they confirmed their place as the best team in Europe.

Hansjörg Wirz, the President of European Athletics, said: “The bar has certainly been raised at these excellent European Athletics Team Championships in Gateshead.

“The stadium has been packed out, rain or shine, with spectators who have created a memorable atmosphere over the last two days.

“The passionate fans at the stadium and the millions watching at home have shown how well received athletics is in Great Britain and the momentum that our sport picked up during the London 2012 Olympics has been maintained.”

There is no doubt this event will be talked about for a long time – because there were so many twists and turns.

Germany led overnight with 195 points from Russia (194), Great Britain (181), Poland (166), France (164.5), Ukraine (160.5), Spain (123.5), Italy (123), Turkey (102), Greece (76), Belarus (75.5) and Norway (67).

Nineteen events were left to be decided on this final day and the bottom three overnight could not improve on their placings as Turkey edged away from them, with Tarik Langat Akdag winning the 3000m steeplechase to give them 12 key points as they stayed in fourth from bottom.

But at the top, it seemed that every time Germany tried to extend their lead, Russia narrowed the gap.
Then when Russia were in front, Germany did the same and at one stage, the Russians were back in third place with six events to go as Britain made a challenge.

Leading by just 1.5, Germany then found themselves eight points ahead at the top of the table after Christina Schwanitz had triumphed for Germany in the shot put.

At that stage the score was Germany 297, Britain 289 and Russia 287.5.

But gradually Russia moved close to victory as they achieved important late wins with Dmitriy Tarabin in the javelin and then Daria Klishina finished second in the long jump with 6.43m as Germany’s Sostehene Taroum Moguenara was back in fifth.

Russia cut the lead to just half a point in the women’s 4x400m relay as, anchored by Ksenia Zadorina, they finished second in 3:29.46, with Germany back in sixth in the race in 3:31.90.

The Russians were now on a roll and it took them all the way to the title.

Tarabin said: “This was a beautiful competition for me.”

Russia’s first win of the day came in the 110m hurdles as Sergey Shubenkov defied the wet track to record an excellent victory in 13.19.

“It was good to win,” he said. “I had a season’s best which was good too. I hope for the best from the World Championships in Moscow.”

The men’s triple jump might not have been expected to give Russia victory with France’s world indoor record-holder Teddy Tamgho back in form but that was not the case.

The glory went to Russia’s Aleksey Fyodorov who won with 16.70m from Tamgho with 16.62m and it was an event where Germany finished back in 11th as Manuel Ziegler had a best of 15.46m.

Fyodorov said: “I enjoyed fighting against one of the great athletes of our sport (Tamgho). I won 12 points for my country and that is the most important thing for the team.”

It was Russia’s day in the 5000m as Olga Golovkina, who won gold at the distance a year ago at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki, triumphed in a season’s best of 15:32.45.

And Russia won another 12 points in the women’s 1500m as Yekaterina Sharmina, the European Athletics Indoor bronze medallist in Paris in 2011, ran a brilliant final lap to triumph in 4:08.86.

“It was a good finish, I feel in good form and I am happy with the last lap,” said Sharmina.

Germany looked strong throughout and they won the first event of the day with Betty Heidler, who leads the hammer European Athletics rankings with 76.48m, reaching 74.31m.

Robert Harting won the discus for Germany with 64.25m for their third win of the day but Russia just had enough overall.

Britain won both 4 x 400m relays while their 100m hurdler Tiffany Porter flew to victory in 12.62 while France, who were fourth, had Christophe Lemaitre retain his 200m crown as he won in 20.27 and 13 years on from finishing first in the 3000m steeplechase here when this competition was the European Cup, Bouabdellah Tahri won the 3000m.

And with the pole vault moved indoors because of the rain, it was a familiar outcome as it brought another French victory with Olympic and European champion Renaud Lavillenie taking the glory with 5.77m.

But it was Russia’s trophy and now the planning begins to make it four in a row in Braunschweig in Germany in 12 months time.

Final standings (after 40 events)
1. Russia 354.5
2. Germany 347.5
3. Great Britain 338
4. France 310.5
5. Poland 305.5
6. Ukraine 291.5
7. Italy 260.5
8. Spain 251
9. Turkey 197.5
10. Belarus 155.5
11. Greece 152
12. Norway 137

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