The opening session of the 29th European Indoor Championships in the National Indoor Arena saw a morning of mixed fortunes for some of the notable names.
Farah falls but "gets on with it"
If there was an ‘out and out’ crowd favourite this morning in the men’s division of events, then it had to be Mo Farah, the Somalian-born Briton, who took the European 5000m silver medal in Gothenburg last summer, and has since secured the mantle of reigning continental cross country champion.
For a country with such a great athletics tradition especially in the middle and long distance events, and with the mounting pressure to find a new generation of heroes in the lead-up to next year’s World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, let alone the 2012 Olympics in London, Farah is at the very pinnacle of British hopes.
This morning however, the 23-year-old Newham and Essex Beagles athlete for the best part of 20 minutes between the end of his 3000m race and the second qualification heat which followed, found himself the focus of a mild depression that descended over the National Indoor Arena.
At approximately half distance in a type of tripping incident common in indoor middle distance races, Farah suddenly found himself sprawled flat out on the track. Momentarily disorientated by his fall, Farah rose and ran two steps in the wrong direction, but realising his mistake got himself back in the correct direction in pursuit of the fast disappearing pack which included reigning champion Alistair Cragg.
A disaster for home hopes?
Well in the end no, as in managing bravely to finish sixth (7:55.36) Farah, when results from the second heat were also considered had done enough to qualify for Saturday’s final as one of the four overall fastest ‘losers’, in what will be a 12 man fight for gold.
Such are the ‘ups and downs’, or more correctly the ‘downs and ups’ in Farah’s case, of indoor championship racing which is always a perilous business on the confined space of 200m tracks.
"What can you do, that's athletics and you just have to get on with it," said Farah,
At the sharp end of the 3000m performances, Spain’s Jesús España, the European 5000m champion, was the overall fastest with 7:52.50, and heat two winner Turkey’s Halil Akkas was sixth quickest of the eight automatic qualifiers. Austria’s Günther Weidlinger and Cragg were second (7:53.04) and third best (7:53.18) overall, thanks to their runs behind España in the first heat.
Gillick, the favourite
Elsewhere on the track this morning we enjoyed the opening rounds of the 60m Hurdles and 400m which passed off without major incident.
Reigning champion and the world’s second fastest of this indoor season David Gillick was the second best of the 400m qualifiers (46.70). When all results were combined from the four heats, the Irish favourite was sandwiched between Germany’s Bastian Swillims, who with 46.08 was the morning’s fastest runner, and Britain’s Robert Tobin with 46.77. Each looked confident in taking their heat wins, as did Sweden’s Johan Wissman, the other race victor of the morning (46.92).
Spain’s Jackson Quiñónez was the best of the 60m sprint hurdlers with 7.60 seconds when winning heat 2 of four, tied at the top of the first round qualifiers with Britain’s Andy Turner (heat 3 winner - also 7.60). Latvia’s European outdoor 110m Hurdles champion Stanislav Olijar looked good easing up in third place in Quiñónez’s race. The Latvian was the champion in 2000.
Smith, Pavlov and Blom, down and out
Returning back to a few of the morning’s ‘downs’, defending champion and former World Indoor winner Igor Pavlov of Russia and Holland's World outdoor gold medallist Rens Blom were casualties in the Pole Vault, which saw Germany’s three entrants easily through to the final. Björn Otto with 5.70m on his first try at that height was the only automatic qualifier for tomorrow’s 8-man final.
World silver medallist and the runner-up in these championships in 2005, the Netherlands’ Rutger Smith was the major surprise non-qualifier in the Shot Put. 19.19m was just too lowly in what was itself a low key qualifier overall. Only Denmark’s Joachim Olsen, the defending title-holder (20.93m), and Slovakia’s Mikulas Konopka (20.35m), went over 20m.
Britain can be pleased with the standings after Triple Jumper qualification. Nathan Douglas led the competitors (16.96m) - the only automatic qualifier for tomorrow’s final - with Phillips Idowu (16.82m) in the third best of the morning. Russia’s Yevgeniy Plotnir (16.84) split the Britons. That no one broke 17m indicates that this event is missing the presence of the injured Olympic and European champion Christian Olsson.
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