By Mike Rowbottom

russiawinsJune 23 - Russia secured a hat-trick of European Athletics Team Championships at a rainswept Gateshead today, overtaking the overnight leaders, Germany, with the hosts, Britain, finishing third after the final flourish of winning the concluding women's and men's 400 metres relays.

In the event, Russia's final leg runner in the men's 400m relay, individual event winner Vladimir Krasnov, did not need to produce his late surge to overtake Germany's Jonas Pluss and then secure second place in the wake of Britain's anchor man Richard Buck, who crossed in 3min 05.37sec, the fastest time run in Europe this season.

Krasnov's compatriot Maria Kuchina was dominating a women's high jump - switched indoors, as was the pole vault, because of the wet and windy conditions - that was still coming to an end as he ran, and she eventually secured victory with a personal best of 1.98 metres.

Thus, after 40 events - 20 each for men and women - Russia totalled 345.5 points, seven points clear of Germany.

Britain, as their departing head coach Peter Eriksson had hinted was likely beforehand, finished third on 338 points, 27.5 clear of France.

At the other end of things, Belarus, Greece and Norway were relegated from the competition's top tier.

Tiffany Porter secured the first home win of the day in the 100m hurdles with a European season's best time of 12.62sec.

ohuruogubatongatesheadBritain's Christine Ohuruogu takes the baton from Meghan Beesley en route to securing victory in the 400m relay at Gateshead

Christine Ohuruogu's storming final lap to secure the 400m relay victory for Britain in 3:28.60 after runs from 400m hurdles winner Eilidh Child, Shana Cox and Meghan Beesley - Ohuruogu's 20-year-old sister and fellow squad member Victoria was not called upon to run - briefly put the hosts in contact with the top positions with just three events remaining.

But the result of the javelin - where Russia's Dmitriy Tarabin won with 85.99m and Germany's Thomas Rohler was second with 83.31 - extended the gap between second and third.

Russia's indoor and outdoor European champion Sergey Shubenkov had got his team off to a flying start on the track on the second day with victory in the 110m hurdles on a tricky wet surface in 13.19.

shubenkovgatesheadRussia's European indoor and outdoor high hurdles champion Sergey Shubenkov secures maximum points for the eventual winners

France's world, European and Olympic pole vault champion Renaud Lavillenie lived up to his position as clear favourite, earning a maximum 12 points with his effort indoors of 5.77m, but Bjorn Otto's third-place finish with 5.50 earned 10 points which kept Germany 7.5 points ahead after 26 events.

Lavillenie's compatriot, Teddy Tamgho, was unable to match his efforts in the triple jump.

The world indoor record holder could only manage 16.62m, finishing second behind Russia's Aleksey Fyodorov, whose maximum haul after a jump of 16.70 left Russia 8.5 points ahead of Germany, who were in turn just a point ahead of Britain, whose competitor Nathan Douglas - back in top-level competition after five injury-ravaged years - took third place with 16.45.

Hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon also earned third place for Britain behind Germany's Betty Heidler, who won with 74.31m.

But the Briton's effort of 72.97m meant she had broken the national record for the ninth time and surpassing the A qualifying standard required to compete at this summer's IAAF World Championships in Moscow.

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