Olympic champ makes solid start at the Europeans

Greek athlete Fani Halkia, the gold medalist in the 400-meter hurdles at the Athens Olympics in 2004, qualified for the semifinals of the same event at the European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg on the opening day yesterday. Halkia won her heat and was the second-fastest qualifier with a time of 55.42 seconds. The Greek runner, who reported feeling a slight foot discomfort ahead of competition, went into the race having registered this season’s fastest time in Europe, 53.71 seconds. «I had some problems with my foot. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurting. I was running against the wind, so I held back,» Halkia said. Another Greek entry, Christina Hantzi-Naeg, also made it through to the semifinals in 56.80 seconds. She ended fourth in her heat and was the slowest of the 16 qualifiers. A Cypriot athlete, Androula Sialou, running in the same heat as Halkia, also advanced to the semifinals, with a time of 55.87 seconds and third place in her heat. In the hammer throw, Alexandra Papageorgiou reached the final with a 66.81-meter performance that gave her sixth place in her heat. She goes into the final ranked 12th. Russia’s Tatiana Lysenko made it to the final as the best qualifying performer with a throw of 73.23 meters, a new championship record. Two other members of the Greek team, Louis Tsatoumas and Stergios Nousios, qualified for the men’s long-jump final with performances of 8.09 and 7.97 meters respectively, registered on their first attempts. A 7.95-meter cut had been set for making today’s final. «I feel tremendously strong and consistent this season, which is giving me confidence,» said Tsatoumas. «I simply jumped once to make the final.»

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