'Black day' as Mayer fluffs Euro decathlon lines

by Luke PHILLIPS
France's Kevin Mayer won Olympic silver in Rio before taking gold at last year's world championships

In-form decathlete Kevin Mayer suffered a "black day" Tuesday as he failed to register a mark in the long jump of the multi-discipline event, a failure that means the Frenchman will not add the European title to his world gold medal.

The Olympic silver medallist, who was touted as having a shot at the world record such was his form, lived up to that when he opened up with a lifetime best of 10.64 seconds in the 100m, the fastest of the field.

But come the second test of the two-day event, and the 26-year-old Mayer could only record three fouls in the long jump, effectively ruling himself out of a tilt for gold and blowing the field open in the race for the podium.

"This is a black day for me," said Mayer. "I do not have an excuse. I am very sorry for those who expected a lot of me, for all my fans.

"I was in great shape, but today the others were better. I wanted to show much more than this."

While Mayer was left holding his head in his hands crouched by the sandpit, there was more woe for the French team as, astonishingly, neither Ruben Gado nor Romain Martin registered a legal jump.

There was then more drama in the men's discus when Germany's reigning Olympic gold medallist Christoph Harting and Poland's defending European champion Piotr Ma?achowski both failed to record a mark in qualifying at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.

Harting's launch was obviously offline, the strapping home favourite clattering his discus high into the exit netting.

- Kanter eyes window -

One thrower hoping to take advantage of the duo's failure will be Estonian veteran Gerd Kanter, the former world and Olympic champion.

"I am pretty old and I am pretty experienced," said the 39-year-old, whose qualifying effort was the third longest.

"My first big championships was in 2002 in Munich. I have eleven different championships medals. Here in Berlin, these are my last championships.

"I had some injuries last year and now I hope to quit my career in a good way. I am delighted to be in the final. We had some surprises in the qualification, everything is open."

Another discus thrower bowing out of major championships in Berlin is Christoph Harting's brother Robert, who did manage to qualify for the final in the same stadium where he won world gold in 2009. Teammate Daniel Jasinski, the Olympic bronze medallist, failed however to make the cut.

The first gold medal of the European champs, which run until Sunday, went to Ukraine's Maryan Zakalnytskyy, who claimed victory in the men's 50km race walk in 3hr 46min 32sec.

Symbolically finishing next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz in western Berlin, where a terror attack on a Christmas market in December 2016 left 12 people dead and 56 others injured, the Ukrainian comfortably held off Slovakia's 2015 world and 2016 Olympic champion Matej Toth (3:47.27) for silver, with Belarus' Dzmitry Dziubin taking bronze.

The women's 50km race walk was won by Portuguese veteran Ines Henriques, the inaugural world champion over the distance timing 4:09.21 in extremely hot conditions on the streets of the German capital.

Ukraine's Alina Tsviliy claimed silver (4:12.44), with Hungarian-born Spaniard Julia Takacs taking bronze (4:15.22).

France's Kevin Mayer won Olympic silver in Rio before taking gold at last year's world championships