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Sports

Germany grabs five final-day medals in European Championships

Long jump, high jump, relays and discus - Germany notched up five last-day medals at the track and field European Championships in Barcelona. But it still wasn't enough to break into the top three in the medal table.

Germany's Christian Reif, center, France's Kafetien Gomis, left, and Britain's Chris Tomlinson, right, pose on the medal podium

Reif, center, jumped further than anyone all year for gold

Germany's string of podium finishes on the final day bolstered its national tally to a respectable 16 medals at the European Championships in Barcelona, but that was still well short of the leading trio of Russia, France and Britain.

Christian Reif had the most successful Sunday in the long jump, leaping an unassailable 8.47 meters to claim gold. That is the furthest anyone has jumped in competition this year. Reif's closest contender, Kafetien Gomis of France, fell 23 centimeters short of the mark.

"That was just awesome! This is the result I had been dreaming of," Reif said after grabbing Germany's fourth gold of the competition. Reif was just seven centimeters shy of the country's all-time long-jump record, set 30 years ago by Lutz Dombrowski.

World champion and hot favorite in the discus Robert Harting ended up having to settle for silver. His 68.47 meter throw was 40 centimeters shorter than that of gold medalist Piotr Malachowski from Poland.

"At the end of the day, there's nothing I can do about it," Harting said stoically after a performance which he admitted was not his best. "I didn't get any throw quite right; none of them flew smoothly. And when that's the case, you're not going to hit the 70-meter mark."

High jump, sprint relays

Germany's Ariane Friedrich reacts jubilantly after clearing the bar

Friedrich was pumped up, but couldn't clear the last bar

26 year-old high-jumper Ariane Friedrich also grabbed a medal, as expected, but could only manage third in the women's competition. Friedrich cleared a 2.01 meter bar - but that was two centimeters shy of the winning jump by Croatian Blanka Vasic.

"I wanted a medal, and I've got one," Friedrich surmised after the event. "But I'm sad that I didn't manage 2.03 meters."

Meanwhile, Germany also enjoyed success as a team on the track, grabbing bronze in the men's 4x100 relay, and silver in the women's 4x400.

The German sprint quartet of Tobias Unger, Marius Broening, Alexander Kosenkow and Martin Keller finished up behind France and Italy to take a rather surprising medal.

"We're super happy," starter Tobias Unger beamed after the result. "It's great that everything worked out, we were definitely aiming to secure a medal."

The women's 4x100 relay team couldn't deliver on their hopes for a medal, with a botched handover ruining their race, but the 4x400 squad salvaged some honor with a solid run for silver. Janin Lindenberg, Esther Cremer, Jill Richards and Claudia Hoffmann just kept the British quartet at bay to secure second place, but had no answer for the dominant Russian runners who finished first.

Looking to London

Germany's Janin Lindenberg, right, passes the baton to Claudia Hoffmann, second from right

Germany's track and field medalists hope to carry the baton through to the Olympics

Germany's haul of 16 medals - four gold, six silver, and six bronze - was enough for a comfortable fourth place overall, well ahead of Turkey in fifth. However, the German athletes were well adrift of the leading trio of Russia, France and Britain in the overall tally.

"Two years before (the Olympic Games in) London we are already far better prepared than we were for the 2008 Games in Beijing," the president of the German athletics association, Clemens Prokop said after the games closed in Barcelona late on Sunday. "We want to continue this run of good results in London, and at next year's World Championships in Deagu in Korea."

Germany might not have established itself as a front runner in the track and field world, but the team won six more medals in total than four years ago in Gothenburg, Sweden and is progressing towards the top.

"I believe in our team, our prospects for the Olympics really look great," Prokop said, pointing out that the relatively young average age in the squad - 25.9 years - means that many of the top German athletes still have their best years ahead of them.

Author: Mark Hallam (dpa, SID, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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