Russia unstoppable in European Championships Mixed Team Relay
Russia fielded an impressive team made up Irina Abysova, Ivan Vasiliev, Alexandra Razarenova and Dmitry Polyansky racing to gold in the mixed team relay at the 2012 Eilat ETU Triathlon European Championships. Franz Loeschke took Germany over the line for silver while Ukraine won the battle for bronze.
Eight teams from seven nations lined up on Eilat beach with each of the teams four athletes completing a 250m swim, 5km bike and 1200m. The women went first and it was Ukraine’s Inna Ryzhykh who led the way out of the sea closely followed by Carolina Routier for Spain and Germany’s Anja Knapp.
Ryzhykh held the lead on the first leg, tagging Danylo Sapunov to be first into the water for Ukraine. A tight group followed consisting of Poland’s Sylwester Kuster, Vasiliev, Justus Nieschlag (GER) and Denmark’s Casper Stenderup Korch.
Vasiliev, who took bronze in the elite men’s race the previous day, pulled to the front of the pack during the swim to enter T1 ahead. The Russian then steamed his way around the bike and run course leaving a gap of over 25 seconds between his nearest challengers, Denmark and Germany.
Razarenova was the third athlete to go for Russia with Denmark’s Line Jensen and German Sarah Fladung following, just in front of Ukraine’s Yuliya Yelistratova going into the water. A strong bike leg by Razarenova lengthened the gap gained by Vasiliev and by T2, she had 50 seconds on Denmark and Germany who stayed close together. In fourth Yelistratova was chasing down the leaders.
The last lap was down to the men and Razarenova tagged Polyansky to set Russia off with a 50 second lead. Fladung had put in the work on the bike to give Germany the edge over Denmark as she handed over to Loeschke. Denmark’s final leg was down to Andreas Schilling with Yegor Martynenko up for Ukraine.
Polyansky proved unstoppable with such an extensive lead and took the Russian’s all the way home for the European Championship title. Behind, Loeschke produced a fast ride and secured the silver for Germany.
A fight for bronze ensued between Schilling and Martynenko. The two stayed together throughout the ride and left T2 neck a neck. A sprint down the final straight was in vain as Denmark had to serve a last minute penalty leaving Ukraine to claim bronze.
The mixed team relay concluded a successful elite performance at the European Championships for Russia with both Vasiliev and Alexander Bryukhankov on the elite men’s podium the previous day.
“It’s been a really good weekend for me and I’m so happy. I was feeling good all through the race. It’s my tactic to swim fast and go out hard on the bike and run,” said Vasiliev. “I like the team relay because it is so fast, it looks spectacular and good for spectators and TV, but the number of countries was not so many today.”
Defending champions, Germany had to settle for silver, but Fladung was happy with their efforts.
“The race was really hard, but it was really good. My competition on Friday was not so good, so I’m really happy with this race. The wind was really strong and it was hot, but I worked together with the Danish woman,” said Fladung. “The team relay is really interesting and it’s fun to race with the men. I think it’s good for triathlon.”
Ukraine made it onto the podium for the second year in a row, but Yelistratova plans to move them up to the top spot next year.
“We’re happy to finish with a bronze medal and to be on the podium, but next time we will go out to win,” said Yelistratova. “We were aiming for a medal today, hopefully the gold, but today it was the Russians.”
The junior mixed team relay contested earlier in the day crowning Italy European champions with a team including Matthias Steinwandter and Delian Stateff who took individual junior men’s gold and silver respectively. It was a five way battle for the majority of the race between Italy, France, Russia, Great Britain and Portugal, but the final sprint to the line saw Steinwandter up against Simon Viain for France. Steinwandter’s long legs did it again and his acceleration was enough to secure Italy the gold with France taking silver. Bronze went to Russia.
The European Championships finale came when the paratriathletes took to the course in Eilat with Britain sweeping up four gold medals across the paratriathlon classifications. Iain Dawson (TRI-6), Faye McClelland (TRI-4), Jane Egan (TRI-1) and Charlotte Ellis (TRI-6) all defended or regained their titles and are now multiple European Championship winners.
However the golds were shared out across the nations. There was double success for Italy as Andrea Bozzato and Michele Ferrarin claimed victory in TRI-2 and TRI-3 respectively and Martin Schulz won gold in TRI-4 on his International Triathlon debut.
Yan Guanter (FRA) and Francesc Sola Garcia (ESP) were also winners in TRI-1 and TRI-5.
For British trio McClelland, Egan, and Ellis it was their third European title in a row. McClelland finished ahead of Russian duo Anna Bychkova and Alena Kaufman.
“It was really hot. That was the main concern for me as I don’t cope too well in the heat,” said McClelland. “I raced Alena in Beijing and so I was fairly confident I could beat her. But the other lady I’ve never raced before. I just thought I’m going to have to race as hard as I can and do a good time for me and see how I go.”
“I’m really pleased, it was a really hard race. I started the run and thought I was going to faint, I was all over the place. But I actually seemed to get better doing the run,” said Ellis. “We’ve done a huge PB today on a hard course.”
Dawson, who was the first Briton across the line reclaims the title he won in 2010.
“I’m pretty relieved as I had a shocking season last year from start to finish, after such a great year in 2010,” said Dawson. “Everything that could have gone wrong did and I was wondering if that was going to carry on. But it was a well planned and well executed race today and I’m really pleased.”
The story of the day was the arrival of former professional swimmer Martin Schulz (GER) on the international triathlon scene. Making his debut, Schulz stormed the course, crossing first in little over an hour.
“I’m very happy as it’s my first time in international triathlon so this is unbelievable,” said Schulz. “I can’t believe it. I know I could make a good race. I did my best and it was enough.”
It was Sola Garcia’s (ESP) third European title in a row, but he admits it wasn’t easy.
“I feel really good. The race was hard and GB were pushing really hard on the bike,” said Garcia. “In second transition I overtook him and in the last part of the running I did my best and I am the winner.”
With files from David Peddie / ETU
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