AMSTERDAM (AP) Less than two years after an anti-doping test showed he had cancer, Thomas van der Plaetsen is heading to the Olympics - as European decathlon champion.
First the Belgian had to suffer through the ignominy of being tainted a drug cheat, while the test in October 2014 in fact showed he had testicular cancer. Then came the operation, followed by chemotherapy. When he became bald because of the treatment, he looked half the decathlete he once was.
On Thursday he put all of this behind him and hung on in the concluding 1,500 meters to win the European title with 8,218 points ahead of Czech Adam Helcelet with 8,157.
''It is difficult to say if this is my greatest win ever, but it is definitely the one I cherish the most,'' he said.
Many had ruled out a return to the top, especially in a discipline with 10 events spread over two days. ''After everything that happened last year, that is why this has so much significance. A fantastic comeback,'' he said. The result also qualified him for the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Greg Rutherford already knows everything about the Olympics after he won the long jump title in London four years ago. Since then, he also became the reigning continental, Commonwealth and world champion.
He wanted to keep that picture perfect going into Rio and he did with a penultimate jump of 8.25 meters, to edge Michel Torneus of Sweden by 4 centimeters.
It turned into a double golden evening for Britain. In the absence of world champion Dafne Schippers, 20-year-old Dina Asher-Smith of Britain won the 200 ahead of Bulgarian Ivet Lalova-Collio. Schippers will compete in the 100 and relays over the next three days and therefore chose not to defend her title.
In the men's 100 meters, Churandy Martina upset the odds for gold, finishing in 10.07 seconds, the same time as Jak Ali Harvey of Tukry. It was the first gold for the host nation. Jimmy Vicaut of France, the overwhelming favorite only came in third, .01 seconds behind.
In the high jump, Ruth Beita of Spain, at 37 almost twice the age of Asher-Smith, successfully defended her high jump title, scaling 1.98 meters, holding a edge of 2 centimeters over Bulgarian Mirela Demireva.