For Yelena Soboleva, tonight's 1500m World record came only as a bonus.
The 25-year-old Russian revealed that she only thought about the gold medal and not about the record when she stormed to a superb 1500m victory in Valencia. But with a new all-time best indoors of 3:57.71 she crowned the final day of the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
“I did not expect to break the World record," Soboleva said. "I was running for gold."
It was the third time that Soboleva lowered the World indoor 1500m standard. Two years ago she had improved on the pre-Soboleva best of 3:59.98 to 3:58.28 in Moscow. This year she lowered it yet again at the Russian Championships in the capital, to 3:58.05.
But in contrast to her two World records previous to Valencia Soboleva had never won a major championship. Two years ago she had entered the World Indoors in Moscow as the big favourite but was then beaten by her fellow countrywoman Yuliya Chizhenko. After that silver medal it becmae even worse at the European Chamionships final in Gothenburg later that year. In Sweden she could only finish fourth after she had improved her outdoor best to 3:56.43. Last year it was a similar story, although she at least won a silver medal in Osaka. Soboleva had entered the event leading the world lists with 3:57.30 which remained the fastest time of the year. But then she could not cope in the end of the race when Bahrain’s Maryam Jamal stormed past her to take the gold.
So finally, Soboleva has broken the deadlook. And she could not have accomplished that in a more impressive way.
“After Osaka I worked a lot to improve my speed on the final 500 metres of the race,” Soboleva said.
There were two reasons why she and Yulia Fomenko, who won the silver medal with a personal best of 3:59.41, had agreed before the start to make this a fast race.
“I don’t like running in packed fields. I need space to run well,” Soboleva explained. The second reason was the more important one though: “Making the race fast gave me the best chance of winning.”
But Soboleva admitted that she had not been too confident after her world record in Moscow. “I felt tired after the championships in Moscow,” she said. A day before her world record Soboleva had additionally broken the Russian 800m record with 1:56.49, which makes her the fourth fastest of all times indoors at this distance. After the championships her coach Matvey Telyatnikov advised her to take a ten day break. “The time I had to prepare for Valencia seemed to be a bit too short, but my coach was right. He said that I would be okay if I run fast.”
Living in Moscow but originally coming from nearby Bryansk, where she studied at the Institute of Technology, Soboleva is supported by the Russian sports system plus her club. With the funds she receives she is able to fully concentrate on her running.
“I have to thank Yulia for helping with the pace today. If we would not have done it this way I don’t know if it would have been possible to win”, Soboleva believes. “But I really had no idea about the world record. The problem was that I did not see the time at the 1000 metre mark. So I could not think about breaking the record. I only realised that Yulia was running very fast and that I have to held on to her.”
Asked if she would see herself as the favourite at the Olympics Soboleva answered: “That is difficult to say right now. First of all I will have to qualify for Beijing. Taking into account the strength of the Russian middle distance runners that is not that easy. Our championships are almost as tough as the Olympic Games. But I don’t want to loose against another Russian.”
Regarding a possible start at the 800m at a major championship Yelena Sobolova said that she will run the shorter distance at championships some time in the future.
“I like running the 800 metres but it is different than the 1,500 metres. In the 800 you have to really run the whole way.” But that was what she did in Valencia on Sunday.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF