Sweden's Meraf Bahta (R) celebrates after winning the Women's 5000m final ahead of second-placed Netherlands' Sifan Hassan (L) during the European Athletics Championships at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich on August 16, 2014
Zurich (AFP) - The promise of Dutch delight turned to despair – and ultimately silver and bronze consolation - in the dramatic closing stages of the women’s 5,000m final on the penultimate day of the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.
Less than 24 hours after winning the 1500m final (on a night when Dafne Schippers completed a 100m sprint double), Sifan Hassan was closing on what would have been a famous double of her own and a record-equalling fourth for the Netherlands as she surged from seventh at the bell to the shoulder of Sweden’s Meraf Bahta coming into the home straight.
A similar tactic had won the 21-year-old Ethiopian-born woman her metric mile crown in convincing fashion but this time she came up against an unyielding rival in Bahta.
The Eritrean refugee had pushed the pace from two laps out and dug deep to hold on for victory in 15min 31.39sec.
Hassan had to be content with silver, finishing 0.40sec, with her Dutch team-mate Susan Kuijken coming through for bronze and Jo Pavey, the 40-year-old 10,000m winner from Great Britain, down in seventh.
"With 100m to go I knew that nobody could beat me," said Bahta.
"I was never afraid to lose the duel with Hassan. This is my first time running for Sweden. It is great for me to hear the anthem for the first time."
The battle for first place in the medal table edged marginally in favour of France after wins for Renaud Lavillenie in the men’s pole vault and Christelle Daunay in the women’s marathon.
They have seven golds now, the same tally as Britain, but with 18 medals in all, three more than their rivals.
Lavillenie has been untouchable in 2014 and the Olympic champion extended his winning streak to a 20th competition with just two vaults.
After entering at 5.65m and clearing that at the first attempt, the Frenchman just needed a second time success at 5.90 to claim the gold.
He did, however, attempt to achieve his first 6m-plus vault of the outdoor season but registered three failures at 6.01m – 15cm shy of the world record he set indoors in Donetsk in February.
Daunay is not quite a member of the Fortysomething club – she turns 40 in December – but the French marathon runner maintained the gold standard for the older guard in Zurich, pulling clear after halfway to win the 26.2 mile event in 2 hr 25min 14sec – 13 seconds ahead of the 38-year-old Italian Valeria Straneo.
Farther down the field, there was a race within the race to become the first finisher between 28-year-old triplets from Estonia. It was won by Liina Luik, 29th in 2:41:18. Leila Luik was 43rd and Lily Luik 47th.
The seventh British gold came in the women’s 400m hurdles. Favourite Eilidh Child held on for victory in 54.48sec, 0.08sec ahead of the fast-finishing Ukrainian Anna Titimets.
However, Child’s fellow Scottish Commonwealth Games silver medallist Lynsey Sharp was unable to hang on after going our hard and fast in a bold defence of her 800m title.
She was caught and passed 80m from the line by Maryna Arzamasova, the Belarus athlete prevailing in 1 min 58.15sec. The consolation for Sharp was not just the silver but also a Scottish record: 1:58.80.
In the women’s discus Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic, the reigning world and Olympic champion, claimed gold with a 71.08m world lead and national record in the fifth round
The men’s hammer was a dramatic affair, Olympic champion Krisztian Parrs requiring a world leading throw of 82.69m in the final round to retain his title.
In the women’s triple jump Ukraine’s Olha Saladukha completed a hat-trick of titles, a second round effort of 14.73m edging out Russian Yekaterina Koneva by just 4cm.