After crossing the finish line at the end of the 800m, the final event of the women’s pentathlon at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, Nadine Broersen sprawled flat on her back on the track in the Ergo Arena on Friday night.
It was hardly surprising, given the amount of effort that the 23-year-old Dutchwoman had poured into all five events.
Even when the final result flashed up on the scoreboard and the stadium announcer confirmed Broersen as the winner, she continued to lay back in exhaustion for several moments before struggling to her feet and starting to celebrate.
The tears flowed as Broersen grabbed a red, white and blue flag and the magnitude of her achievement began to sink in.
Not since the 1989 championships in Budapest, when Nelli Cooman sped to victory in the 60m and Elly van Hulst did likewise in the 3000m (in the latter case in world record breaking style), had the Netherlands been blessed with a world indoor champion. Broersen was not born until a year later.
Still, after collecting her gold medal, and shedding more tears of joy, she could appreciate the historical significance of her success. “Yes, I thought Nelli Cooman won a gold medal,” she said. “She was a great athlete.
“Of course, I’m very, very proud of what I have done. At the moment, it just seems unreal.”
The reality is that Broersen has become only the third Dutch athlete to win a world indoor crown.
Cooman claimed two, also winning the 60m in Indianapolis in 1987. Van Hulst won the 1500m at the World Indoor Games in Paris in 1985, as the forerunner event of the World Indoor Championships was then called.
It was understandable, though, that Broersen was struggling to grasp the reality of her achievement. She had shown championship medal potential before, only for her hopes to be dashed.
At the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last August she probably would have finished on the podium had she not clipped a barrier and stumbled in the opening event, the 100m hurdles. She ended up 10th.
It had been a similar story at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg in March last year. Broersen was on course for a medal there before being cruelly but correctly disqualified for a lane violation in the final event, the 800m.
Delight after past disappointments
Did those disappointments make this sudden success all the sweeter for her?
“Well, yes a little bit,” Broersen pondered. “But I didn’t have any kind of revenge feelings here. I knew I could win a medal but you have to do it.
“And now I’ve done it. It’s a dream come true for me, this.
“I hoped to win a medal in my career and now it’s a global medal. It’s very unreal for me.”
The competition was not quite as classic as the head-to-head in Istanbul two years ago, when Jessica Ennis pushed Natalya Dobrynska to a world record score of 5013 points. Nonetheless, with the retired Dobrynska looking down from the stands, Broersen produced a tour de force of her own, matching or bettering personal bests in the 60m hurdles (8.32), the high jump (1.93m, which is also a national record), the long jump (6.17m) and the 800m (2:14.97).
All of that, together with a solid 14.59m shot, added up to a winning score of 4830 points, another Dutch record.
And to think: the new flying, multi-talented Dutchwoman almost gave up on the combined events game before she had fully begun.
“I didn’t want to do the heptathlon because of the 800m,” the Ajax fan confessed. “But in 2009 I was invited to go to the national performance centre to train for multi-events and I thought, ‘Well, I can give it a try.’ And I started to like it.
“Now, I’m very happy that I made that decision.”
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF