Irina Davydova of Russia underscored her Olympic gold medal credentials by winning the 400m hurdles at the European Championships on Friday in the year’s best time.
Davydova has made major progress this year and powered away on the finishing straight to cross in 53.77 seconds, improving on her former world best by 0.1 seconds.
“The time totally surprised me,” she said, as the race was in blustery, cool 15oC conditions.
Czech Denisa Rosolova took silver in 54.24.
On a big day for Russia which saw it take the lead in the medal table with four gold and 11 overall, Yuriy Borzakovskiy and Yelena Arzhakova also triumphed.
Eight years after his Olympic title, Borzakovskiy finally won another major race when he came from behind in the 800m.
At 31, the Russian needed a slow race and got it, lying well back for most of the race before proving he still had that old finishing kick. He timed 1:48.61, more than six seconds off his best.
“I came here to check my condition before the Olympics. Now I’m happy that I got my first gold at the European Championships,” he said.
Borzakovskiy won gold at the 2004 Athens Games, but the closest he ever got to a major title since then was finishing second at the 2005 world championships in Helsinki.
Arzhakova added the women’s 800m coming from third to first in the final 100m in a sharp 1:58.51, holding a massive margin of 2.01 seconds over Britain’s Lynsey Sharp.
Germany got a similar double.
Shot-putter Nadine Kleinert of Germany won her first major title at 36, beating Irina Tarasova of Russia and Chiara Rosa of Italy. Kleinert had won three world silvers before.
And proving Germany’s great tradition in the event, world champion David Storl won the men’s gold.
Ukraine triple-jumper Olha Saladuha also got a world-leading mark when she reached 14.99m to take gold.
After Mo Farah won the championships’ first gold, high jumper Robbie Grabarz and 400m hurdles runner Rhys Williams pushed Britain’s total to three gold.
In the steeplechase, defending champion Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was threatened in a slow race until the final hurdle when Spain’s Victor Garcia crashed, allowing the Frenchman to coast to gold. Garcia quickly got up again and was passed by only Tarik Langat Akdag before ending up with bronze.
Ivet Lalova’s quest for a sprint double at the championships ended in the 200m semi-finals late on Friday.