By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BERLIN (12-Aug) -- On the final night of the 24th European Athletics Championships here at Olympic Stadium, three favorites prevailed in the final middle and long distance events on the schedule: Britain's Laura Muir in the 1500m, Netherlands's Sifan Hassan in the 5000m, and Germany's Gesa Krause in the 3000m steeplechase. Krause was a repeat champion from Amsterdam two years ago.
Muir, a Scotswoman who recently finished up her studies to become a veterinarian, showed her class in the metric mile, overwhelming the field with a mid-race surge that left the others battling for second. Behind a steady opening 400m by her teammate Laura Weightman in 69.6 seconds, Muir went to the front with two laps to go and immediately stretched out the field. She didn't want it to turn into a kicker's race.
"I just knew that there were a few girls there who had a good kick, and I just thought I didn't want to leave it to later on in the race," Muir told reporters. "The longer I left it the more dangerous they would be. "I know I'm the fastest 1500-meter runner, so I wanted to make it a 1500-meter race and not an 800-meter race."
Leaving nothing to chance, Muir ran the final 800-meters of the race in a snappy 2:05.4 to become the first-ever British woman to win a European 1500m title. Her time of 4:02.32 was the fastest at these championships since 2010.
"I just had to try to trust my pacing, and I judged it right," Muir added. "I'm really happy."
Poland's Sofia Ennaoui mounted a very fast sprint in the final 100 meters to take the silver from Weightman, the first-lap leader. The petite Ennaoui out-kicked Weightman, 4:03.08 to 4:03.75, landing her second continental championships medal (she won bronze at the same discipline at the 2017 European Indoor Championships).
"I felt very strong and confident coming to these championships," Ennaoui told European Athletics interviewers. "I came right from the training camp in St. Moritz and felt great. I am so happy for my first major senior medal."
For Weightman, who won the bronze medal at these championships in Zürich four years ago, the result was bitter-sweet. Although she didn't land the silver medal, she was still proud of how she ran, taking control of the race from the gun and shaping the outcome.
"I didn't want to step off the track and say, why didn't I take it hard from the beginning," Weightman told Race Results Weekly.
Defending champion Angelika Cichocka of Poland finished last.
For Hassan, the 5000m went to form, but with a twist near the end. The talented and versatile Dutchwoman likes a fast pace, and got it when Britain's Eilish McColgan stepped to the front early and ran consistent laps in the 71-second range. That quickly reduced the field to five contenders: Hassan, McColgan, Turkey's Yasemin Can, Germany' Konstanze Klosterhalfen and Israel's Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, the 10,000m gold medalist from earlier at these championships. McColgan was executing her pre-race plan, perfectly.
"Every championship I come into I'm in good shape, and I let other people run their race, and I sit in, I sit in, and it turns into a 600-meter race," McColgan explained to Race Results Weekly. She continued: "My mom said, you're in PB shape; you know you are. Get the field clipping along and run the way that's best for you."
At about the 3000-meter mark, Can took over for McColgan at the front, and the pace sagged to 73.2, 73.8 and 73.3 seconds per lap for the next three laps. That was too slow for Hassan who, with 800m left in the race, made her play for victory. She ran the next circuit in 66.0 seconds, taking Salpeter with her. The pair came down the homestretch with a lap to go, and Salpeter appeared to be sprinting all out to keep pace with Hassan.
"I thought she was going to make a long sprint to make me tired," Hassan said of Salpeter. "I didn't know she was sprinting!"
As the pair ran past the finish line for the penultimate time, Hassan kept going while Salpeter, who thought she had finished the race, stopped. The crowd gasped, and Hassan turned around to see what was going on.
"When she stopped I was, like, no, we have to go one lap!" Hassan recounted.
Salpeter's error opened the door for McColgan who was running full out just behind her. The Scotswoman passed Salpeter, and charged ahead after Hassan who, to be fair, was already out of reach. Hassan ran a blistering 60.5-second final circuit to take the gold in a championships record 14:46.12. McColgan finished a clear second in 14:53.05, and Can caught up, passed Salpeter, and took the bronze in 14:57.63. Salpeter was later disqualified under IAAF rule 163.5 (c) apparently for cutting in too early after the start. The Israeli was distraught after the race, sprawled on the floor of the mixed zone crying while the Israeli delegation, including her husband and coach Dan Salpeter, who tried to console her.
"That's just a lack of experience," a team official told Race Results Weekly.
For Gesa Krause, the defending steeplechase champion, her race was relatively serene. The IAAF World Championships bronze medalist from 2015 ran a savvy race, staying near the front and waiting for the right time to strike. By the last lap of the seven and one-half lap race, she and Switzerland's Fabienne Schlumpf and Norway's Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal were away from the field and battling for the medals. Entering the final water jump, Krause surged past the much taller Schlumpf, exited the water pit with the lead, and scooted to victory in a season's best 9:18.80. The partisan crowd roared in approval.
"I'm overwhelmed from this race and this victory," Krause told the media. "It's a unbelievable feeling to run in this stadium in this awesome atmosphere. The race went like I hoped it would. I had hoped that I get the chance for a fast last lap, because I knew I'm one of the fastest in the last lap. My tactic was to wait till I push and attack. I wanted to attack at the last water-barrier and all fit perfectly."
Schlumpf hung on for second in 9:22.29 and Grøvdal got third in 9:24.46, just ahead of the charging Luiza Gega of Albania (9:24.78). Adva Cohen of Israel was a surprising fifth in a national record 9:29.74.
The 25th European Athletics Championships will take place in Paris in 2020, although many will face each other before that at the 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow next March.