Estonia claimed the sole promotion place at the European Athletics Team Championships Second League in the Croatian city of Varazdin tonight, totalling 336.5 points after two days of competition to finish above Slovenia, who reached 321, and Denmark, who finished with 313.
Magnus Kirt, who heads this year’s world list in the men’s javelin, contributed maximum points to the victors with an effort of 81.47m. The Estonians might have only produced three victories across the two days but they were rewarded for their excellent consistency with 19 top three finishes across the 40 events.
As part of this year’s streamlining of League numbers by European Athletics, five teams go down from each, and here the nations heading for League Three were Israel, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Georgia and Malta.
Helped by victories from Lukas Weisshaidinger in the discus (63.99m), Beata Schrott in the 100m hurdles (13.36) and a sprint double from Markus Fuchs, Austria finished two-and-a-half points above the relegation zone on 275. Both they and Israel were disqualified in the final event, the men’s 4x400m which meant the key contest was the preceding women’s 4x400m in which Austria finished sixth, earning seven points, on 3:45.60, and Israel ninth, earning four points, on 3:49.39.
Home discus thrower Sandra Perkovic, the reigning world, European and Olympic champion, was a proud winner, providing the individual highlight of the two days with victory in a championship record and European lead of 68.58m.
Slovenia’s Tina Sutej produced one of the most emphatic wins of the weekend in the pole vault, where she cleared a season’s best of 4.70m, with Denmark’s Caroline Holm second on 4.05m.
Holm’s teammate Sara Petersen, the Olympic silver medallist and 2016 European champion, excelled in the women’s 400m hurdles, finishing almost three seconds clear in 55.76 while double European U23 champion Anna Emilie Moller took another double, winning the 1500m in 4:18.59 and the 3000m in 9:12.59.
Bulgaria’s 35-year-old 2012 European champion Ivet Lalova-Collio won the women’s 100m in 11.51 and completed a sprint double on day two with a time of 22.99 in the 200m which takes her tally of victories at the European Cup and European Athletics Team Championships to an incredible 14 since 2004.
A top-class men’s shot put event saw Luxembourg’s Bob Bertemes win with 21.62m, ahead of the 21.03m reached by home thrower Filip Mihaljevic.
Cyprus earned a maximum points bonus from the women’s 400m, where Eleni Artymata won in 51.93.
Bulgaria’s double European silver medallist and Olympic silver medallist Mirela Demireva won a tight women’s high jump on countback after clearing 1.94m along with home athlete Ana Simic.
Ksenia Balta maintained Estonia’s second-day momentum with victory in the women’s long jump, reaching 6.52m to finish 20 centimetres clear of her nearest rival, Nektaria Panagi of Cyprus. Midway through the programme, Kaur Kivistik took their tally to three wins with victory in the 3000m steeplechase in 8:40.78 to win by seven seconds.
Israel’s Kenyan-born Lonah Chemtai Salpeter finished almost 20 seconds clear in the women’s 5000m in 15:44.38.
Croatia’s reigning Olympic javelin champion Sara Kolak also earned top points, delighting the home crowd with an effort of 57.97m.