BERLIN (Reuters) – Britain’s Zharnel Hughes and Dina Asher-Smith were crowned as Europe’s fastest sprinters on Tuesday, winning high-quality editions of the blue riband 100 metres finals at the European Championships.
On a hot, still evening in the Olympic Stadium where Usain Bolt set the world record of 9.58 seconds, Hughes, an occasional training partner of the great Jamaican back in Kingston, set a Championship record of 9.95 to pip team mate Reece Prescod by one-hundredth of a second.
The race to find the continent’s fastest woman saw Asher-Smith end the 100m reign of Dutchwoman Daphne Schippers in brilliant style, clocking 10.85, equalling the world’s fastest time this year and setting a British record.
The 22-year-old Asher-Smith, the reigning European 200m champion, surged clear earlier in the race, with Germany’s Gina Lueckenkemper taking silver in 10.98 and Schippers bronze in a season’s best 10.99.
It is the first time Britain have been able to boast both the men’s and women’s champion at the same edition in the 84-year history of the Championships.
On the first night of finals, 30-year-old Frenchman Morhad Amdouni won a tactical 10,000m, sprinting away from Bashir Abdi after the Belgian tried to kick for home off the back straight and winning in a modest 28 minutes 11.22.
Ukrainian Maryan Zakalnytskyy and Portugal’s Ines Henriques were the first two champions crowned when they delivered exceptional 50-km race walk triumphs around the streets of Berlin on a hot morning.
In draining conditions, the 23-year-old Zakalnytskyy was a surprise winner of the men’s race, beating Slovakia’s Olympic champion Matej Toth by 55 seconds in three hours, 46 minutes and 32 seconds.
Henriques, the remarkable 38-year-old who won the world title in London last year, then took the women’s crown in 4:09:21, three minutes and 23 seconds clear of Ukraine’s silver medallist Alina Tsviliy.
French world champion Kevin Mayer, hot favourite to win the decathlon title, blew his chances completely in the second of the 10 events when he fouled in all three long jump attempts.
The Olympic silver medallist was leading the competition to find Europe’s top all-round athlete after a 10.64 seconds run in the 100 metres before he made the inexplicable error which effectively rules him out of medal contention.
Having fouled his first two jumps in the Olympic Stadium, just a safe third would have sufficed for the 26-year-old but he again edged over the take-off board with an unnecessarily aggressive approach on his final attempt.
“I have to say I’m really, really disappointed with what happened. I had such high expectations of myself and all I can do is apologise,” said Mayer, although he was adamant that he had no regrets about his attacking approach.
“A lot of people are saying I should have played it safe but when you’ve done a really good 100 metres and you’ve got all the confidence running through you, I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he added.
Mayer’s absence leaves the title up for grabs, with Britain’s Tim Duckworth taking most advantage to lead by 95 points on 4,380 after the first day.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond/Christian Radnedge/Ken Ferris)