Ibrahimov steals the show as Austria lead Athletics

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Baku, June 22, AZERTAC

Austria sit on top of the table with 250 points after day one of Athletics at the first European Games, but it was a fleet-footed Azerbaijani who was the star of the evening at Baku's Olympic Stadium.

Three victories from Sunday's 21 events helped Austria to an 11-point lead over Slovakia, but it was Hayle Ibrahimov's runaway victories in the men's 1500m and 5000m – just 75 minutes apart – that got the crowd on their feet.

The Ethiopian-born runner even had time for half a lap of honour with the Azerbaijan flag after the 1500m before disappearing for a quick warm-down to get ready for the longer race.

He won that at a canter in 14 minutes, 2.17 seconds after taking the 1500m with an impressive finishing kick in 3:49.69.

"I wanted to put on a show and have a good run, to make it nice for Azerbaijan," said Ibrahimov after flying the national flag round a full lap following his second victory.

"I feel the crowd are with me and (that meant) I did not feel tired. The support is very great."

Another Ethiopian-born athlete, the 19-year-old Chaltu Beji, was just as dominant in the women's 3000m steeplechase, giving the 20,000 Azerbaijani fans more reason to cheer by jogging home 25 seconds ahead of her nearest rival.

Austria's eventual supremacy over Slovakia in the race for the team gold medal came thanks to some impressive pole vaulting from Kira Grunberg, a personal-best victory from Verena Menapace in the 400m hurdles and a solo 3000m win from Jennifer Wenth.

For Slovakia, a national record of 44.92 seconds in the women's 4x100m relay was the pick of the Balkan nation's six victories, while Donald Blair Sandford was an impressive winner of the men's one-lap race in 45.75, helping Israel into third place just one point behind on 238.

Azerbaijan will start day two in fifth place, one point adrift of Moldova in the battle for the coveted fourth promotion place in the European Athletics Team Championships.

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