A compelling opening day of the Super League in the European Athletics Team Championships in Braunschweig on Saturday has Germany leading the way after an afternoon their fans will remember for a long time.
Winners of the first Team Championships in 2009, Germany, with 195 points, lead Russia, the defending champions, who have 192, with France third with 161 as these three teams were the dominant forces at the Eintracht-Stadion.
The Russians won six of the 21 events, but the German crowd went home happy after their athletes won three - including the race of the day as Arne Gabius hustled his way through to bring the house down as he won the 5000m in stunning fashion.
It was a sensational performance by Gabius, summing up what this European Athletics Team Championships are all about - the desire to win for your country.
He gave so much to beat Spain's Jesus Espana, the 2006 European champion, as he looked beaten with 30 metres left. But Gabius came through on the inside to edge home for a famous win in 13:55.89 from Espana in 13:56.00 and Turkey's Ali Kaya third in 13:56.64.
The stadium was rocking with the excitement as Gabius celebrated in front of his own fans who stood and bowed to him in delight.
"The last 30m were so hard," said Gabius.
"Jesus Espana is such a good sprinter and I donot k now how I managed to overtake him. I needed to put out a big chest and then you know that you are first over the line."
Germany also had a memorable win in the long jump as Christian Reif beat Great Britain's Olympic champion Greg Rutherford.
Rutherford looked in control of the competition after his first round 7.99m but then in the third round, Reif, cheered on by the clapping fans, leaped to 8.13m to triumph.
"It is really beautiful to win against the Olympic champion," said Reif.
Germany had early reason to celebrate, too, as David Storl, their double World champion, beat the double Olympic champion, Tomasz Majewski, of Poland, in the shot put.
Storl won with a season’s best 21.20m in the third round, having led from the second with 20.85m after Majewski, who finished with 20.57m, had been in front with 20.50m.
Storl fouled on his final effort and said: "Those who know me well know that I often have up to two false attempts at Championships, but that is impossible in front of my home crowd."
France had gained the early initiative as Myriam Soumare won the 100m in 11.35 before a third round 76.34m in the hammer from Russia's Sergey Litvinov earned him victory.
France led with 23 points at that stage but Storl's win saw Germany onto 31 from France with 29 ahead of Russia with 26.
Denis Kudryavtsev, of Russia, won the 400m hurdles in 49.38 to put Russia into second spot and though France’s Jimmy Vicaut triumphed in the 100m in 10.03, he limped away, with his hand clutching his right hamstring.
When Mame-Ibra Anne won the sixth event, the 400m hurdles in 45.71, France were back on top of the table, but Russia were closing in.
Yekaterina Poistogova gave the Russians victory in event seven, the 800m, in 2:02.65, and then the result of event eighth came through, which was victory again for the champions with Anzhelika Sidorova taking the pole vault with 4.65m, moving her to joint top of the European Athletics rankings.
France were still in front with 82 points from Russia with 75 and Germany with 72.
No other country had won an event up to this stage but the women's 3000m changed all that - and saw the record books rewritten as Sifan Hassan, of the Netherlands, tore the field apart to triumph in a championship best of 8:45.24, beating the time of 8:46.88 that Russia's Gulnara Galkina set in the first European Athletics Team Championships in Leiria in 2009.
By the end of event 10, Russia were in front as Yekaterina Koneva's second round triple jump of 14.55m gave her victory over Ukraine's Olha Saladuha, the double European champion and World champion, who was second with 14.33m.
A discus season's best of 65.51m from France's Melina Robert-Michon saw her win as France cut the gap of leaders Russia to three points, 108-105.
But by event 12, Russia were back leading, not that they won the 400m hurdles.
That went to Ukraine's Hanna Ryzhykova in 55.00, but Russia's Irina Davydova was third in 55.79 with France's Phara Anacharsis in ninth overall after finishing fourth in the first heat in 58.22.
Russia led now by nine with 118 but the next event, the men's 1500m, was something to savour as another Championship record went with Jakub Holusa, of the Czech Republic, winning in 3:37.74.
And in achieving this success, he beat the man whose record time he replaced with Turkey's Ilham Tanui Ozbilen back in sixth in 3:38.67 a year after he had won in Gateshead in 3:38.57.
Sweden’s Charlotta Fougberg won the 3000m steeplechase in 9:35.92 and savoured the feeling of victory. "I love the colour gold," she said.
"I use it almost for everything - my make up, my nails and my spikes have a gold sole." Russian Alena Tamkova won the 15th event, the women's 400m, in 51.72 and then came Gabius' moment, a win which put Germany in front in the competition.
Just five more events remained, as the sun was shining after a day of wind and rain, and the men's high jump was won by Ukraine's Andriy Protsenko with 2.30m.
Russia's Andrey Silnov was second with 2.28m but Martin Gunther was back in ninth for Germany with 2.15m and once more the Russians were leading the way.
Reif then narrowed the gap to one point with his victory before the German team were disqualified from the women's 4x100m relay which saw the Netherlands the quickest overall from the opening heat with 42.95.
But the Germans were then re-instated after a protest.
Barbora Spotakova, the javelin world record-holder, showed her form after returning to the sport to give the Czech Republic victory with 65.57m, with Germany's Linda Stahl third with 61.58m ahead of Russia's Viktoriya Sudarushkina with 59.40m before the final event of the day, the men's 4x100m, proved crucial.
Adam Gemili, on the anchor leg, gave Britain victory in the second heat with the best overall time of 38.51 from Germany in 38.88 and though Russia were fourth in this race in 39.35, they were eighth overall which meant the host nation were in charge, going into day two on Sunday with a lead they will be determined to maintain.
Courtesy European Athletics
Photo: Getty Images
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