Less than two months after anchoring the Netherlands to victory in the 4x400m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun, Tony Van Diepen did so again on the global stage at the World Athletics Relays in Silesia on 1-2 May.
In an unchanged team to the one that won gold in Torun, Van Diepen safely took hold of the baton from youngster Ramsey Angela but with the South African, Japanese and Botswanian teams still in close contention for the title.
Van Diepen drew on all of his experience on the last leg, keeping something in reserve through the first half as South Africa’s Oscar Mavundla blasted past the tall Dutchman at the start of the back straight.
But as the bend started to unfurl, Van Diepen - who has a sub-1:45 lifetime best in the 800m - moved wide in the last 125 metres before powering to an unopposed victory for the Netherlands in 3:03.45 by exactly one second from Japan (3:04.45) and Botswana (3:04.77).
After running a 44.9 leg in the heats, Van Diepen was timed at 45.47 in the final on a cold and sometimes blustery evening in the Silesian Stadium which was far from ideal for sprinting.
Even though she didn’t come away with a medal for her efforts, double European indoor champion Femke Bol was one of the standout - if not the standout - athlete of the weekend.
Joining forces with Van Diepen, Nour Wardenburg and training partner Lieke Klaver, the Netherlands qualified for the Olympic Games in the mixed relay by reaching the final in Silesia with Bol contributing a second leg split of 50.72.
Just over two hours earlier, Bol posted a 49.71 split for the Netherlands in the 4x400m heats - the fastest time by a woman across the weekend - and despite a 50.58 split which took the Netherlands from sixth to first in the final, the Dutch had to settle for fourth in 3:30.12 behind surprise champions Cuba (3:28.41) and Poland (3:28.81).
Poland were missing some of their leading runners, including European outdoor champion Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, but European U23 champion Natalia Kaczmarek produced an excellent anchor leg of 50.59 to take the Poles from fourth to second. Great Britain & NI were third in 3:29.27.
Italy had an excellent weekend with two largely unexpected victories on the second day in the mixed 4x400m relay and the women’s 4x100m.
Anchored by Davide Re, the Italians took a gun-to-tape victory in the mixed 4x400m in 3:16.60 from Brazil (3:17.54) and the Dominican Republic (3:17.58) before European U20 100m champion Vittoria Fontana propelled Italy to victory in the women’s 4x100m final in 43.79 ahead of Poland and the Netherlands who were both timed at 44.10.
A poor final exchange between Nadine Visser and Naomi Sedney almost certainly cost the Netherlands the victory in the women’s 4x100m and potentially a third victory for Italy in the men’s 4x100m final as well. Their team which included Marcell Lamont Jacobs and Filippo Tortu clocked 39.21 behind South Africa who won in 38.71.
In other events, recently crowned European indoor 800m champion Patryk Dobek and Olympic 800m finalist Joanna Jozwik joined forces to win the mixed 2x2x400m relay ahead of Kenya and Slovenia. The hosts also won the women’s 4x200m title in 1:34.98 with Marlena Gola anchoring the hosts to victory ahead of Ireland.
Germany pipped Poland in the shuttle hurdles relay and the Germans also won the men’s 4x200m final by a commanding margin from Kenya.
The Silesian Stadium will next play host to the European Athletics Team Championships Super League on 29-30 May.
Full results here.