At the halfway point of the javelin final in Rio last night, Croatia’s Sara Kolak was sixth at her first Olympic Games, but her evening was only just starting.
Never mind being a novice on this stage, never mind being surrounded by the world record-holder and defending champion, or the European champion from just a few weeks ago.
At 21, Kolak decided her time had arrived. She picked up her javelin, went back to her marker, prepared herself for round four, began her run up and unleashed the spear like never before.
It landed at 66.18m, it was yet another national record but it was more. It was the throw which brought her the Olympic gold medal.
In one instant, the rest of the world-class field had been left speechless. A stunning blow and no wonder this young lady was smiling.
The European bronze medallist from last month was now on top of the podium after an amazing competition because no matter what her rivals had left, they could not match her.
South African Sunette Viljoen took silver with 64.92m from the first round and world record-holder Spotakova, seeking a hat-trick of Olympic crowns, won bronze, with 64.80m from round five. Belarusian Tatsiana Khaladovich, the European champion, was fifth with 64.60m from round three.
Kolak, the 2013 European junior bronze medallist, had broken her own national record in Amsterdam by throwing 63.50m in the final last month and in this matter of weeks, she has extended that distance by 2.68 metres.
It was a glorious triumph as a new star of European athletics was born and one who is only just starting out in her senior career.
As she said afterwards: 'I can't believe it'. And no wonder. Few would have expected this success because she was still seen as an up-and-coming thrower, but she proved the old adage of age being an irrelevance if you have the ability.
Kolak had qualified for the final by breaking the national record with 64.30m and now she was the gold medal with an even longer throw.
It was one of the shocks of the week and from one Sara to another…
In Amsterdam, Denmark’s Sara Slott Petersen won the 400m hurdles gold with a brilliant performance and last night she created even more history in taking Olympic silver.
Petersen came through for second with a dogged run, packed with fluent hurdling and consistent speed, to break the national record with 53.55m in a race won by American Dalilah Muhammad (53.13) with her USA teammate Ashley Spencer (53.72) in third and the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova (53.92) in fourth.
And by reaching the podium, Petersen became the first Danish track and field woman to win an Olympic medal since Lily Carlstedt’s bronze in London in 1948.
The first final of the day was the men’s 400m hurdles and Europe was celebrating again.
Like Petersen, Turkey’s Yasmani Capello arrived in Rio as the European champion and he is now the Olympic bronze medallist.
As gold went the way of American Kerron Clement (47.73) followed by Kenya’s Boniface Mucheru Tumuti (47.78), Copello was third in a national record of 47.92, just ahead of Ireland’s Thomas Barr, whose time of 47.97 was also a national record.
And just to keep the stats books alive in another part of Europe, Estonia’s Rasmus Magi was sixth in 48.40, also a national record.
Seventeen women made it into the final of the high jump by clearing the qualification mark of 1.94m and among them was Croatia’s 2008 Olympic silver medallist Blanka Vlasic in her first outdoor competition of the year following injury.
It was a fabulous event for Vlasic, who went over first time at all her heights: 1.85m, 1.89m, 1.92m and 1.94m and what a story it would be if she made it onto the podium.
Spain’s Ruth Beitia, who brilliantly retained her European title in Amsterdam last month and has a medal at every major event except the Olympics, progressed with exactly the same series as Vlasic.
In the 4x100m relays, Britain will fly Europe’s flag in the men’s event and in the women’s Germany, Britain and Ukraine all made it through to the final.
Poland’s Joanna Jozwik looked good as she ran a season’s best (1:58.93) to win her 800m semi-final and is joined in the final by fellow Europeans Maria Arzamasova (Belarus) and Lynsey Sharp (Britain), while Britain’s Charlie Grice reached the 1500m final.
TODAY’S FINALS (ALL TIMES CET)
1:00pm - Men’s 50km walk
7:30pm - Women’s 20km walk
1:30am (Tomorrow) - Women’s Pole Vault
2:05am - Men’s Hammer
2:40am - Women’s 5000m
3:15am - Women’s 4x100m relay
3:35am - Men’s 4x100m relay