For the first time ever a multi-sport continental games is taking place in Europe. With only 20 sports and 253 events it is a lot smaller than the other continental games we see in Asia or Pan America, but give it time and it could be one of the premier events in sports. The European Games held in Baku, Azerbaijan are taking place from June 12th to June 28th 2015. Several sports here offer ranking points towards Olympic qualification, but three sports offer direct qualification to Rio; shooting, table tennis and triathlon. In triathlon the winners of the men’s and women’s race qualify their nation a spot.
There was some hype for the women’s race as it contained the 2012 Olympic gold and silver medalists, Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Lisa Norden of Sweden where a photo finish decided the winner in 2012. Interestingly enough this was the first time the two have competed against each other since 2012 due to injuries and pregnancy. At the end of the swimming portion it was Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer and Russia’s Anastasia Abrosimova whom came out of the water first. Abrosimova fell behind during the biking and running portions to finished 16th. Klamer however kept up with the leaders and by the end of the cycling portion the top three of Spirig, Norden and Klamer were two minutes ahead of the fourth place athlete. Spirig used the running portion to extend her lead over the other two athletes and comfortably won the race with a time of 2:00:28. Klamer was able to take second by out sprinting Norden, finishing with a time of 2:01:44, two seconds faster than Norden.
While the biggest names were absent in the men’s race it was still great to watch. The swimming portion was won by Richard Varga of Slovakia. During the cycling portion two main groups formed with cyclists switching between the two groups over the 40km race. The running portion had Great Britain’s Gordon Benson slowly outrunning the remaining athletes that finished in the first group from the cycling portion. It was looking to be a relative easy win for Benson until two athletes from the second cycling group made their move and began to run at a high pace. They were Portugal’s Joao Silva and Azerbaijan’s Rostyslav Pevtsov. It was however too late as Benson defeated Silva by 11 seconds winning the race at a time of 1:48:31. Pevtsov won the bronze medal. To put things into perspective about how fast Silva ran, with the exception of Pevtsov who also had a tremendous run Silva outpaced the next fastest runner by 55 seconds and was able to cut Benson’s lead by 1:33.
This was the first continental qualifiers in triathlon as the other four continents have planned races over the next year. The European Games will continue over the next two weeks with the shooting and table tennis events expected to be wrapped up over the next week.
Quotas by Nation
- Great Britain – 1
- Switzerland – 1
- insidethegames. Olympic champion Spirig earns women’s triathlon gold at Baku 2015. Access on June 14 2015.
- insidethegames. Brilliant Benson claims Baku 2015 triathlon title after British tactical masterclass. Access on June 14 2015.