Kaniskina sheds tears of joy as Russians dominate 20km walk

Olympic and world champion Olga Kaniskina burst into tears after leading a Russian sweep of the medals in the women's 20km walk at the European championships yesterday.

Kaniskina led compatriot Anisya Kirdyapkina by 10 seconds at the halfway mark and continued to pull away from the field to win in a time of one hour, 27 minutes and 44 seconds.

Kirdyapkina, fastest woman in the world this year, was a distant second, one minute and 11 seconds behind. Vera Sokolova was third.

"It feels fantastic to have won the race walk here in Barcelona. I'm also very happy for the girls," said Kaniskina, who broke down in tears after crossing the line. We trained together very hard and now have all climbed the podium."

Spanish hopeful Maria Vasco, Olympic bronze medallist in 2000, was fifth at 10km but later pulled up limping and clutching her right leg.

Back in the Montjuic Stadium, there was also disappointment for top-ranked European sprinter Alena Neumiarzhytskaya, who went out of the women's 100 metres in the first round after only managing fifth place in her heat in 11.63sec. Her Belarus team-mate, 2004 Olympic champion, Yuliya Nesterenko soon followed her out of the competition finishing seventh in her heat in 11.58sec.

France's European record holder Christine Arron, 36, took third in that race to go through to tomorrow's semi-finals behind fastest qualifier Verena Sailer of Germany, who won in 11.27sec.

Norway's European junior silver medallist Folake Akinyemi's campaign ended early when the 20-year-old pulled up in her heat and fell to the blue track in distress. She was carried off on a stretcher.

Ukraine's Oleksiy Kasyanov got his decathlon title bid off to a flying start and led the competition by 66 points after three events. Kasyanov, one of the favourites to succeed injured Czech world record holder Roman Sebrle as European champion, started with a season's best in the 100 metres of 10.60sec for 952 points and the early lead. He then produced the best long jump in the 16-man field of 7.88m but faltered slightly in the morning's last event, with a shot put of 14.27m, almost 1.5m down on his personal best.

Lithuania's Darius Draudvila is second overall after three events on 2,661 points and Estonia's European indoor heptathlon champion Mikk Pahapill third another 78 points in arrears.

Spain's world steeplechase champion Marta Dominguez said she was feeling below par after finishing fourth in her heat to qualify for the final. Fervently cheered by children wearing coloured T-shirts, which gave the near-empty arena on the Montjuic hill some much-needed atmosphere, Dominguez pulled away off the last barrier to take the final qualifying spot after rival Sophie Duarte stumbled.

"I didn't have to force the pace because I was lucky that at the end the French girl stumbled but I hope to recuperate in time for Friday," said Dominguez, wearing pink running shoes to match her trademark headband.

Dominguez is the only woman with a chance of a third straight title following her consecutive 5,000m gold medals in Munich in 2002 and Gothenburg in 2006. Her main challenger in Friday's final is likely to be Russian Yuliya Zarudneva, who qualified in second in yesterday's opening heat and was silver medallist behind Dominguez at the world championships in Berlin last year. Azerbaijan's Layes Abdullayeva won the heat in a national record of 9:40.42. Poland's Wioletta Frankiewicz won the first heat in 9:46.38.

Former world record holder Svetlana Feofanova needed one jump to qualify for tomorrow's women's pole vault final clearing 4.40m. The 30-year-old, European champion in 2002, is a favourite for the title in the absence of Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva, who is skipping the outdoor season, and world champion Anna Rogowska of Poland.