Swiss Neff wins first ever European Games gold medal

Swiss Neff wins first ever European Games gold medal
Updated 13 June 2015

Swiss Neff wins first ever European Games gold medal

Swiss Neff wins first ever European Games gold medal

BAKU: Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff won the first ever European Games gold medal when she triumphed in the women’s Mountain Bike event on day one of full competition in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku on Saturday.
In energy-sapping heat and intense winds Neff, 22, dominated the field and completed the-six lap race in one hour, 31 minutes, five seconds — over two minutes ahead of compatriot Kathrin Stirnemann and Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska who won silver and bronze respectively.
Such was the dominance of World Champion Neff it was apparent as early as the third lap the fiercest battle would be between Stirnemann and Wloszczowska for the silver and the Swiss rider prevailed finishing five seconds clear of her rival in an exciting final two laps.
The inaugural European Games, the continent’s first multi-sport event, is being held in Baku from June 12-28.
Later, Armenia’s 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Greco-Roman wrestler Roman Amoyan left the Baku arena bloodied, beaten and with the Azerbaijan crowd — his country’s bitter enemies — booing and giving him the thumbs down sign on Saturday after his 59 kg bronze medal play-off.
The spectators — who had been called upon earlier in the day by European Games chief operating officer Simon Clegg to put historic disagreements aside and show their appreciation of the athletes — could not resist rubbing in the humiliation after he was outclassed by Azeri opponent Elman Mukhtarov.
Although the arena was not filled to capacity the crowd made their feelings clear from the start and booed even when the 31-year-old — who had been seen as a favorite for gold — received medical attention for a head wound he suffered when Mukhtarov’s chin connected with it.
Amoyan — a three-time world minor medalist and double European champion — was so disappointed he just hopped on the team bus to return to the athlete’s village refusing to impart his feelings.
Clegg — an integral part of the successful London bid for the 2012 Olympics — had expressed his hopes that there would not be a repeat of the hostile reception given to Armenia at the lavish opening ceremony on Friday.
Naturalized French wrestler Evrik Nikogosyan said that he expected the worst when he competes on Sunday in the 75kg category of Greco-Roman wrestling.
“They will scream at me, that is normal,” he said.
“But I am fearful maybe they will throw things at me. We’re not here to insult them, we are just here to compete,” added the 29-year-old, who generally has not found the experience so far, apart from at the airport where his passport was taken away for several minutes, that bad.
The two Caucasus countries have been locked in conflict since a bloody war in the early 1990s following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Clegg, one of British sport’s most experienced administrators, said the fact Armenia were at the Games at all was an achievement in itself.
“Bearing in mind the difficulties between the two countries it demonstrates the power of sport that Armenia is here participating,” said Clegg.
“I recognize there were some reactions from elements of the public to the marching of certain delegations.
“But we have spent some time looking at a range of scenarios,” added the 55-year-old.
The decision by the Armenians to compete was a considerable diplomatic coup for European Olympic Committee president Pat Hickey, who labored long and hard to persuade them to come.