After suffering the ignominy of relegation in 2019, the Czech Republic soared back into the Super League with victory at the European Athletics Team Championships First League in Cluj-Napoca, Romania on Sunday (20).
Courtesy of two victories across the final day and a consistent showing throughout including eleven top two finishes, the Czechs tallied 320.5 points to secure the First League title and their passage back into the top flight of this competition in 2023. They will be joined by Belarus who accrued 315 points while overnight leaders the Netherlands dropped back to third with 300 points.
At the other end of the league table, Estonia will get relegated into the third tier of the competition along with hosts Romania who drop out of the First League for the first time in competition history. Ireland will also drop down a tier by virtue of not competing due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Czechs finished with a flourish on the second day with two victories on the track to aid their promotion bid. Jan Jirka won the 200m in 20.82 ahead of former European champion Churandy Martina from the Netherlands in 21.03 and the Czech relay team which included three-time world and European indoor 400m champion Pavel Maslak concluded the programme with a come-from-behind victory ahead of the Netherlands in the 4x400m, winning in a European-leading time of 3:02.42 ahead of the Dutch with 3:02.49.
The Belarusians just missed out on the overall title but they will also take their place in the Super League again in 2023. After lying in third overnight, the Belarusians rocketed up the leaderboard at the start of the second day with a succession of victories which each yielded 12 points.
After two European Team Championship records on the first day, European champion Elvira Herman provided the individual highlight on day two by winning the 100m hurdles in a championship record and lifetime best of 12.62 ahead of Belgium’s Anne Zagre (12.87) with Zoe Sedney from the Netherlands third in a lifetime best of 12.94.
“I am very happy that I beat my personal best,” said Herman, who is also the reigning European U23 champion. “I’m just excited and I want to run better and better if possible.”
Vitali Parakhonka provided the first part of a double in the sprint hurdles with victory in the 110m hurdles in a season’s best of 13.50 and Maksim Niastsiarenka also won the triple jump with 16.65m. At the other end of the programme, the Belarusians all but ensured their route out of the second tier of this competition by winning the women’s 4x400m in 3:28.14 from Switzerland (3:28.77) and the Czech Republic (3:30.51).
The Netherlands led by 14.5 points overnight but that lead began to evaporate over the course of the second day programme. After four victories on the first day, the Dutch could only manage one victory on the second day courtesy of Mike Foppen winning the 3000m in 7:57.43.
Switzerland climbed up to fourth in the overall standings with some outstanding performances on the second day. Another individual highlight on the second day was Salome Lang clearing three outdoor lifetime bests in the high jump which culminated with a third-time clearance at 1.96m, a national record and an Olympic qualifying standard.
“It’s my best day. I’m so happy, I’m so relieved,” said Lang. “I had so much pressure on me for the Olympics and I’m so happy.”
Romania’s Daniela Stanciu finished second with 1.92m but despite a string of victories on the second day, the Romanians will drop down into the Second League for the first time in European Team Championships history in 2023.
Former world U18 and U20 champion Bianca Ghelber won the hammer at the start of the programme with 71.19m, Florentina Iusco won the long jump with 6.55m with the last jump of the competition and world fourth-placer Alin Alexandru Firfirica won the discus with 62.38m.
While Romania, Estonia and Ireland slide down into the Second League, they will be replaced in the First League in 2023 by Hungary, Denmark and Slovenia who occupied the three promotion places at the European Athletics Team Championships Second League in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
Full First League results can be found here.
Full Second League results can be found here.
Full Third League results can be found here.