The Olympic Park in Munich is packed with people these days. On Tuesday that was also the Olympic Stadium. All those who came were offered the full sporting soul program: joy, disappointment, small moments of shock and a lot of excitement. In the end it was a thrilling, but also an extremely satisfying evening at the European Championships, especially for the German visitors.
In athletics, decathlete Niklas Kaul won the gold medal; Discus throwers Kristin Pudenz (67.87 meters) and Claudine Vita (65.20) won silver and bronze respectively when Croatian Sandra Perkovic (67.95) won. The walker Christopher Linke had previously made it to second place over 35 kilometers.
And when it got very late and everyone was already animated, Gina Lückenkemper sprinted over 100 meters in 10.99 seconds to another gold medal for the German Athletics Association. The Swiss indoor world champion Mujinga Kambundji also finished second with 10.99 seconds. Third was Britain’s Neita Daryll, just a hundredth of a second slower.
“I’m so incredibly grateful to you,” said Lückenkemper to the 40,000 fans in the Olympic Stadium. Hardly anyone expected the 25-year-old to win. In addition, she was slightly bruised. She felt problems on her left thigh, the final run was even on the brink. Lückenkemper gritted his teeth – which turned out to be a good decision. With a great finish, she prevailed by a blink of an eye.
Then she had to be stitched up after her fall to the gold in the finish because of a bleeding wound on her leg. “I’ll need a little more time to process all of this,” said Lückenkemper on ARD before going to the hospital, which she was able to leave a little later.
The competitions in the Bavarian capital have had many great moments from a German perspective, such as Emma Hinze’s sprints in track cycling, or Richard Ringer’s final sprint in the marathon.
On Tuesday, however, Kaul and Lückenkemper topped this again. In the last few meters of the final 1500-meter run, Niklas Kaul transported the spectators to the finish line in 4:10.04 minutes, his personal best, and thus to the gold medal.
A few hours earlier, the noise was great when Kaul’s javelin pierced the lawn of the Olympic Stadium at a distance of 76.05 meters. Kaul stretched out his arms and started to do a little lap of honor before realizing that everything wasn’t done yet. But a lot. This throw was the basis for the victory.
The day had started extremely nerve-wracking for the German decathletes – especially for Arthur Abele. Abele was initially disqualified because of an alleged false start over 110 meter hurdles.
But the German association lodged a protest. And this one pulled. Which is why an emotionally stricken Abele quarreled more with the unfortunate end of his career when throwing a discus than with competing in a focused manner.
When the judges came to the conclusion that Abele had started correctly, the decathlon took on slightly bizarre traits. Now the 2018 European champion had to start over the 110 meter hurdles again – but alone. He crossed the finish line in 14.50 seconds to thunderous applause.
“It was brutal,” said Abele. “It was emotionally complete destruction.” He was only able to bring out a safety throw at the discus. The 36-year-old competed in Munich to end his 20-year career as a competitive athlete. In the end he was just happy to be able to continue.
Niklas Kaul may not have been so happy about the drama surrounding Abele. The 2019 world champion had a very good first day in the decathlon. But things didn’t go so smoothly on Tuesday.
Decathletes are sensitive athletes. They communicate a lot with each other, and when one – especially a teammate – threatens to fall out of the competition because of a false start, it works in them. Also in Niklas Kaul. “There was little attack in the hurdles,” he said of the 110-meter hurdles (14.45 seconds) in his time.
Another emotional valley followed in the subsequent discus throw (41.80 meters). He just had no feeling for the throwing device, he reported. In the subsequent pole vault he jumped 4.90 meters. Not bad, but for Kauls claims (“five meters would have been nice”) and probably not enough to catch the leading Swiss Simon Ehammer. That’s what people thought.
After that at the latest it was clear that the 24-year-old would have to perform a small miracle in the final disciplines javelin throw and 1500 meters in order to become European champion. In the javelin throw he started the evening competition with a strong 70.98 meters, his best performance of the season.
The spectators cheered loudly, Kaul remained composed. He knew that the width would not be enough for the really big coup. But a little later, the small sporting miracle began. And shortly afterwards another one by Gina Lückenkemper.