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ATHLETICS

Klüft and Kallur take gold in Birmingham

Swedes Carolina Klüft and Susanna Kallur picked up two out of the four gold medals decided on the opening day of the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham on Friday.

Klüft, the reigning Olympic, world and European heptathlon champion outdoors, was pushed all the way by Great Britain’s Kelly Sotherton but prevailed at the indoor pentathlon speciality with 4944 points.

“Definitely it was a very tough competition. Maybe my toughest ever,” said Klüft, the individual winner of two of the five disciplines on Friday and who is now undefeated in multi-event competitions for five years.

Her tally was just four points shy of the championship record she set in Madrid two years ago when she won the pentathlon gold.

Sotherton finished second to Klüft for the second successive European Athletics Indoor Championships with 4927 points while the Netherlands’ Karin Ruckstuhl was a distant third with 4801 points.

Klüft and Sotherton could repeat their enthralling battle at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, this summer.

Kallur, another long distance favourite for a gold medal in Osaka, preceded her compatriot to the top of the podium when she defended her women’s 60m hurdles crown in 7.87 secs.

Despite a poor start, her time was only three-hundredths slower than a silky smooth semi-final victory in 7.84, which was the best time in the world this year.

In the final Kallur was at the back of the eight-woman field for the first 10 metres but she held her composure, moving into the lead off the third hurdle.

“After that bad start, it was really good that I was able to get back up,” said a relieved and delighted Kallur, who completes an unbeaten indoor season.

Russia’s Aleksandra Antonova, the early leader, finished second in 7.94 while Germany’s Kirsten Bolm got her second successive bronze medal with 7.97.

ATHLETICS

Sweden’s Bahta denies Hassan to claim gold

Sweden's Meraf Bahta held off a late challenge from hot favourite Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands to win the 5,000m final at the European Athletic Championships in Zurich on Saturday.

Sweden's Bahta denies Hassan to claim gold
Photo: TT

The promise of Dutch delight turned to despair – and ultimately silver and bronze consolation – in the dramatic closing stages of the women's 5,000m final on the penultimate day of the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

"With 100m to go I knew that nobody could beat me," said Bahta.

"I was never afraid to lose the duel with Hassan. This is my first time running for Sweden. It is great for me to hear the anthem for the first time."

Less than 24 hours after winning the 1500m final (on a night when Dafne Schippers completed a 100m sprint double), Sifan Hassan was closing on what would have been a famous double of her own and a record-equalling fourth for the Netherlands as she surged from seventh at the bell to the shoulder of Sweden's Meraf Bahta coming into the home straight.

A similar tactic had won the 21-year-old Ethiopian-born woman her metric mile crown in convincing fashion but this time she came up against an unyielding rival in Bahta.

The Eritrean refugee had pushed the pace from two laps out and dug deep to hold on for victory in 15min 31.39sec.

Hassan had to be content with silver, finishing 0.40sec, with her Dutch team-mate Susan Kuijken coming through for bronze and Jo Pavey, the 40-year-old 10,000m winner from Great Britain, down in sevent

The battle for first place in the medal table edged marginally in favour of France after wins for Renaud Lavillenie in the men's pole vault and Christelle Daunay in the women's marathon.

They have seven golds now, the same tally as Britain, but with 18 medals in all, three more than their rivals.

Lavillenie has been untouchable in 2014 and the Olympic champion extended his winning streak to a 20th competition with just two vaults.

After entering at 5.65m and clearing that at the first attempt, the Frenchman just needed a second time success at 5.90 to claim the gold.

He did, however, attempt to achieve his first 6m-plus vault of the outdoor season but registered three failures at  6.01m – 15cm shy of the world record he set indoors in Donetsk in February.

Daunay is not quite a member of the Fortysomething club – she turns 40 in December – but the French marathon runner maintained the gold standard for the older guard in Zurich, pulling clear after halfway to win the 26.2 mile event in 2 hr 25min 14sec – 13 seconds ahead of the 38-year-old Italian Valeria Straneo.

Farther down the field, there was a race within the race to become the first finisher between 28-year-old triplets from Estonia. It was won by Liina Luik, 29th in 2:41:18. Leila Luik was 43rd and Lily Luik 47th.

The seventh British gold came in the women's 400m hurdles. Favourite Eilidh Child held on for victory in 54.48sec, 0.08sec ahead of the fast-finishing Ukrainian Anna Titimets.

However, Child's fellow Scottish Commonwealth Games silver medallist Lynsey Sharp was unable to hang on after going our hard and fast in a bold defence of her 800m title.

She was caught and passed 80m from the line by Maryna Arzamasova, the Belarus athlete prevailing in 1 min 58.15sec. The consolation for Sharp was not just the silver but also a Scottish record: 1:58.80.

In the women's discus Croatia's Sandra Perkovic, the reigning world and Olympic champion, claimed gold with a 71.08m world lead and national record in the fifth round.

The men's hammer was a dramatic affair, Olympic champion Krisztian Parrs requiring a world leading throw of 82.69m in the final round to retain his title.

In the women's triple jump Ukraine's Olha Saladukha completed a hat-trick of titles, a second round effort of 14.73m edging out Russian Yekaterina Koneva by just 4cm.

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