Donald Sanford set a new Israeli record on his way to the 400-meter final at the European Championships in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old California native, who received Israeli citizenship three years ago after marrying an Israeli, clocked a time of 45.39 seconds in the third semifinal heat, improving the national record he set just two weeks ago by 14 hundredths of a second.
Sanford finished his heat in third place, but advanced to Friday’s final after setting the third best time among all 24 semifinalists. The top two in each semifinal progressed automatically to the final.
Two years ago, Sanford came a mere nine hundredths of a second from winning an historic medal for Israel in a sprint event at the European Championships, finishing in fourth place in Helsinki.
Sanford entered the championships in excellent form after breaking the Israeli record in Belgium two weeks ago, clocking a time of 45.53 seconds. He is not considered among the favorites to win a medal in Friday’s final, but could have an outside chance should he improve his Israel record once more.
Israel’s top female athlete, Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko, retired before even attempting a single jump in the triple jump qualifiers on Wednesday.
Knyazyeva-Minenko, who received citizenship last year after marrying Israeli athlete Anatoly Minenko, injured her Achilles ahead of the qualifiers and was forced to pull out before she had a chance to jump. Knyazyeva-Minenko missed much of the past year through injury, but showed she is nearing top form once more after winning the national title last month with a jump of 14.23m fresh off a nine-month lay-off. A jump of 13.67m was sufficient to reach the final on Wednesday. Knyazyeva-Minenko, who finished in sixth place at the World Championships last year in her first major event as an Israeli, was considered Israel’s main medal hope in Zurich.
Late Wednesday, Girmaw Amare and Aymro Alemaye took part in the 10,000m race.