Gevaert captures double on Belgium's night

Belgium`s high jump winner Tia Hellebaut (left) and compatriot Kim Gevaert, who won the 200m race.

Belgium`s high jump winner Tia Hellebaut (left) and compatriot Kim Gevaert, who won the 200m race.

Kim Gevaert completed a sprint double at the European Championships by winning the 200 metres gold in style on a memorable Friday night for Belgium.

The 28-year-old, who became her country's first female European champion by claiming the 100 title on Wednesday, comfortably won the 200 final in 22.68 seconds on a damp, chilly night in the harbour city of Gothenburg.

Gevaert received a welcome boost when she watched fellow Belgian Tia Hellebaut score the major upset so far in the championships by winning the women's high jump a few minutes before the start of the 200 final.

"I just screamed when she did it," Gevaert said. "To see her do that gave me wings. I didn't feel tired at all and I just went for it. What a night for Belgium."

Yuliya Gushchina was a distant second in 22.93 with another Russian, Natalya Rusakova, taking the bronze in 23.09.

Gushchina looked in contention for the first 110 metres but could not resist when Gevaert confidently accelerated in the final straight.

"I expected her to be close but I could find that little extra energy to beat her," the Belgian said after becoming the first woman to take both sprint titles at the same Europeans since East German Katrin Krabbe in 1990.

The pony-tailed Belgian emulated Portugal's Francis Obikwelu who won both men's sprints, the first athlete to do so since Italian Pietro Mennea at the 1978 Europeans.

Affectionately called the 'Gazelle of Kampenhout' by her fans, Gevaert emerged as favourite for a rare double by setting the leading European times for both sprints this season with 11.04 seconds for the 100 and 22.20 for the 200.

The soft-spoken Belgian was a serious classical pianist until brother Marlon, a sprinter, introduced her to athletics.

She started out collecting Belgian records before making her mark by winning two silvers at the European Championships four years ago in Munich.

With Christine Arron, the 1998 European 100 champion, injured and fellow Frenchwoman Muriel Hurtis, the 200 gold medallist from Munich, struggling to recapture her best form after becoming a mother, Gevaert seized her chance to shine.

"I love this sport so much," she said. "I like watching it, I even enjoy the training. But I could not even dream of something as great as this."

Asked before the championships whether she could be the queen of Gothenburg, the modest Gevaert had replied: "A queen? No. Kajsa (Bergqvist) and Carolina (Kluft), those are the queens. I'd be happy if I could be a little princess."

With a beaming smile and a twinkle in her eyes, she looked just like one yesterday.

Meanwhile, little-known 28-year-old Hellebaut set two personal bests in a row and then triumphed by clearing 2.03 metres on her first attempt to give Belgium its first field event gold at the Europeans.

Bulgarian veteran Venelina Veneva finished second, having cleared 2.03 on her second attempt. Hellebaut won after both jumpers failed to clear 2.05.

The bespectacled Belgian is a world class heptathlete who decided late in her career to concentrate on the high jump.

Sweden's Kajsa Bergqvist, who had hoped to delight her home crowd by retaining the title she won in Munich four years ago, had to settle for the bronze.

Yesterday's finals

Women's 100m hurdles: 1. S. Kallur (Sweden) 12.59 seconds; 2. D. O'Rourke (Ireland) 12.72; 3. K. Bolm (Germany) 12.72.

Women's 200m: 1. K. Gevaert (Belgium) 22.68 seconds; 2. Y. Gushchina (Russia) 22.93; 3. N. Rusakova (Russia) 23.09.

Women's high jump: 1. T. Hellebaut (Belgium) 2.03 metres; 2. V. Veneva (Bulgaria) 2.03; 3. K. Bergqvist (Sweden) 2.01.

Men's 3,000m Steeplechase: 1. J. Keskisalo (Finland) 8:24.89; 2. J.L. Blanco (Spain) 8:26.22; 3. B. Tahri (France) 8:27.15.

Men's decathlon: 1. R. Sebrle (Czech Rep.) 8,526 points; 2. A. Zsivoczky (Hungary) 8,356; 3. A. Drozdov (Russia) 8,350.

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