You hadn’t seen that before in Munich’s Olympic Stadium, which had been dancing and cheering for the past six and a half days during the European Athletics Championships. The German sprint relay had just left with high hopes for the penultimate race of the European Championship – and then the first handover went wrong, from Kevin Kranz to Joshua Hartmann. And a veil of incredulity settled over the approximately 40,000 that evening.
Thanks to the women’s 4×100-meter relay and javelin thrower Julian Weber, the frame that the German track and field athletes created for the last evening of the European Championships still shone golden. Especially for the 27-year-old from USC Mainz it was a great satisfaction after years in which his talent was often hidden by injuries. In Tokyo he was 14 centimeters short of Olympic bronze, at the World Championships in Eugene he was one of the few German hopes, fourth place again. “It influenced me more than I would have thought,” he said recently. For Munich, he assured, he had done everything to ensure that this would not happen again.
Weber first has to cope with the counterattack by the Czech Jakub Vadlejch
Weber first had to cope with the counterattack by the Czech Jakub Vadlejch, 87.28 meters, not bad on a windless evening. But Weber, it quickly became apparent, this time slipped into a somewhat more gripping condition. The third attempt was already far, but just about invalid, the fourth sat, with 87.66 meters. Vadlejch once again uncorked a thunderous last throw – invalid. Then Weber finally had his first international medal, instead of a last throw, the new European champion danced to the Venga Boys, finally in the front row.
The men’s sprint relay took over shortly afterwards: Hartmann, Kranz, Owen Ansah and Lucas Ansah-Peprah had already set the German record in the heat, in 37.97 seconds. But as is the case with the momentum of the young carefree ones – sometimes they overshoot the mark. The British won with a championship record, 37.67 seconds, the Poles 38.15 seconds for bronze. For the Germans? What remained that evening was the small consolation that most of it still lies ahead of them. Or as Ansah-Peprah said, “It’s hell.”
It was fitting in that it was the colleagues who carried the 16th and last German medal of this European Championship into the ranking. For seven years they have been performing on the stages with almost the same line-up, and in the run-up they also put away the failures of Gina Lückenkemper and Tatjana Pinto – Jessica Bianca-Wessolly and Lisa Mayer slipped into the team so seamlessly as if they had never done anything else. In the final, at least Lückenkemper came back, to Alexandra Burghardt, Mayer and Rebekka Haase – despite a wound that Lückenkemper tore when she jumped to her 100-meter gold medal. The operation had given her a celebration in the emergency room. Now? The British and French helped a little. First place, in 42.34 seconds, probably led to a more appropriate party anyway.