Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Belgium's Kim Gevaert cruises to sprint double

GOLD FEVER After becoming the first Belgian woman to win a European outdoor title on Wednesday, Gevaert won the 200m gold in style on a memorable Friday night

AP , GOTEBORG, SWEDEN

Exhausted athletes relax after the decathlon competition during the European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg on Friday.

PHOTO: EPA

Kim Gevaert completed a sprint double when she won the women's 200m on a remarkable Friday night for Belgian athletes at the European Championships.

Gevaert was never threatened, cruising home in 22.68 seconds, and fell into an embrace with Tia Hellebaut, a fellow Belgian who won the high jump moments earlier.

No Belgian woman had won a European outdoor title before Gevaert's triumph in the 100m on Wednesday -- and it was Belgium's first gold in 35 years. Two days later, Belgium has three gold medals.

"At home, everybody is crazy because of my 100 gold medal. I wonder what is going on right now in Belgium with three gold medals," said Gevaert, who had a pair of silver medals in the two sprints four years ago.

"Three gold medals are just wonderful for such a small country. Before the start I was watching the high jump and screamed when my friend Tia won the gold medal. Seeing her gave me so much motivation two minutes before my own start," she said.

Hellebaut cleared 2.03m to win the best women's high jump competition in the history of European championships and set national and meet marks.

"I still do not believe what is going on here. I wanted to make a medal and jump a national record and now I am the gold medalist and jumped 2.03 meters!" Hellebaut said.

Jukka Keskisalo surged from behind and upset the favorites in winning the men's 3,000m steeplechase, and gave Finland its first gold medal of the Europeans.

Susanna Kallur delighted the home crowd by winning the women's 100m hurdles, adding to her indoor title.

But there was disappointment for the home fans when reigning world champion Kajsa Bergqvist lost her European high jump title.

Hellebaut edged Venelina Veneva of Bulgaria, who also cleared 2.03m. Bergqvist had to settle for bronze at 2.01.

Blanka Vlasic of Croatia also cleared 2.01 but finished fourth because of more attempts.

Never before had more than one woman gone over 2m at a European championship.

"It is so strange! Before the competition I thought: Just go out there and enjoy yourself with this great crowd. I knew there would be an amazing audience because of Kajsa," Hellebaut said.

Hellebaut had planned to drop her second event, the heptathlon, but now said she would continue.

In the 200m, the other medals went to Russians. Yuliya Gushchina took the silver at 22.93 and Natalya Rusakova was third in 23.09.

Olympic champion Roman Sebrle retained his decathlon title by scoring 8,526 points, well bellow his world record of 9,026 points.

Attila Zsivoczky of Hungary, the world bronze medalist, used his strong 1,500m, the last of the 10 events in the two-day competition, to move into second place at 8,356 points.

Aleskey Drozdov of Russia was third with a total of 8,350.

In the steeple, Jose Luis Blanco, one of the Spanish favorites, led going into the final lap and stepped up the pace. But he began to slow and Keskisalo caught him at the water trap.

Keskisalo accelerated on the final bend and left behind Blanco. The Finn won in 8 minutes, 24.89 seconds, with Blanco second in 8:26.22. Bouabdellah Tahri of France was third in 8:27.15.

"It is a big surprise for me, even a medal would be a surprise, not to speak about the win. The key to success was slow pace, then I knew I had a chance because I have quite a good kick," said Keskisalo, who became the first Finn to win a European steeplechase title.

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