Birmingham, UKWith her powerful victory in the 3000, Poland’s Lidia Chojecka concluded an unprecedented middle distance double to cap a thoroughly entertaining final day at the 29th European Indoor Championships.
Chojecka takes first European indoor 1500/3000 double
Much like her victory in Saturday’s 1500, the heavily-favoured Polish star chose to bide her time, in this afternoon’s case behind Briton Jo Pavey, who for her part chose to control the pace and keep it a relatively honest one. Initially, only the Pole and Spain’s Marta Dominguez gave chase and immediately created a gap on the rest of the field. 2000 metres into the race, with Pavey still leading, German hopeful Sabrina Mockenhaupt and Italy’s Silvia Weissteiner joined the leading trio until Chojecka made her move and broke the race open with 400 metres to go. As Pavey faded back, only Dominguez, the winner in 2002 kept up the fight, but the Pole simply proved too strong and reached the line in 8:43.25 to become the fourth woman to win back-to-back titles over the distance, well ahead of the Spaniard’s 8:44.40 season’s best.
Aftewards, Chojecka thanked Pavey, who recently recovered from a cold, for the pace work.
“I didn't want a slow race with people around me,” she said. “Jo pushed on at a good pace which was perfect for me.”
Producing the race of her life, the 27-year-old Weissteiner fought off Mockenhaupt to take third in 8:44.81, an Italian national record. Powered by a mid-race surge, Commonwealth 1500m champion Lisa Dobriskey was fifth (8:47.25 PB), well ahead of Pavey, who was a distant sixth (8:54.94).
Zbrozhek keeps 800 title in Russian hands
Slovenians Jolanda Ceplak and Brigita Langerholc brought a simple team tactic to the start line of the 800: the pair were hoping to tussle their way to the front after the break, with Ceplak, the World indoor record holder controlling a quick pace, and Langerholc covering her flank from the near outside. But Russian champion Oksana Zbrozhek, this winter’s standard bearer for the nation’s always powerful 800 metre stable, had a plan of her own that quickly brought an end to the would-be Slovenian onslaught.
It was the 29-year-old Russian who fought her way to the early lead, forcing the rest of the field to fight for position from behind. Ceplak did push her way to the front as the tightly-knit pack reached the 200 metre point just a tick under 28 seconds, but with Langerholc boxed in on the inside by Ukraine’s world leader Tatyana Petlyuk, Ceplak quickly found herself on her own. The Russian retook the lead at the bell with Petlyuk positioning herself on the outside, with Ceplak now finding herself boxed in on the inside.
The order remained unchanged as Zbrozhek hit the top of the homestraight, and continued in that vein as the Russian reached the line in 1:59.23 for her biggest career victory, a few steps ahead of the Ukrainian who crossed in 1:59.84.
“I took the race on from the front because it would be harder if I did not,” said Zbrozhek, who succeeded compatriot Larisa Chzhao as the continent’s indoor champion. “This was a decisive move for me. I was able to run quicker on the last lap.”
Ceplak, the 2002 winner who hasn’t put together a three-race weekend since the 2004 Olympics, held on to take the bronze in 2:00.00. Britons Marilyn Okoro and Jenny Meadows never played a lead role in the medal battle, and finished fourth and fifth in 2:00.20 and 2:00.25, while Langerholc faded to sixth (2:01.24).
Tossing aside any pressure that others may have put on her shoulders, Kim Gevaert stormed to victory in the 60 metres in 7.12, just shy of the world-leading 7.10 she produced in Saturday’s semi-finals.
After a mediocre start, the Belgian star didn’t panic and took command by mid-race from Russian Yevgeniya Polyakova, before stretching her lead over the final 20 metres to become the fourth woman to win three consecutive European indoor short dash titles.
“I was so nervous, I messed up my start,” said Gevaert, who last summer took the sprint double at the European Championships in Gothenburg.
Polyakova held on for second in 7.18, while Pole Daria Onyska produced the biggest surprise of the race as she barely edged Briton Jeanette Kwakye for bronze, with each stopping the clock in 7.20.
“Yesterday,” said Onyska, “I was so happy to just get through to the final.”
Bulgarian Tezdzhan Naimova, last year’s double World junior sprint champion, was fifth in 7.22.
Feofanova regains title
While World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva’s decision to forgo a title defence affected the star power of the women’s Pole Vault, Svetlana Feofanova did her part to produce a dramatic competition as she regained the title she won in 2002 with a clutch clearance of 4.76.
“This was a good day,” said the former World record holder, pleased with her pressure performance and the perfect timing of her season’s best clearance.
After a pair of misses at 4.71, Feofanova was in second place behind this winter’s Russian revelation, Yuliya Golubchikova, who cleared the height, a personal best by a centimetre, on her second attempt. Harkening back to her World record-setting days, Feofanova responded with poise, cleanly and clearly sailing over what would become the winning height.
After injury cut her training and competitive season short this winter, Olympic bronze medallist Anna Rogowska was satisfied with her 4.66 clearance for the bronze, a podium step lower than her showing in Madrid two years ago. Czech Pavla Rybova (4.58) was fourth.
Castrejana rises to the occasion to claim surprise gold in Triple Jump
With the absence of several top athletes - among them championships poster girl Tatyana Lebedeva, whose larger-than-life sized image can be seen on virtually every street in central Birmingham - the women’s Triple Jump was another event lacking star power this weekend. But propelled by a Spanish national record leap of 14.64, the farthest by a European this year, Carlota Castrejana nonetheless gave the event some respectability in a surprisingly spirited competition.
Entering the meet with a relatively modest 14.45 indoor best and a season’s best of just 13.95, the 33-year-old veteran rose to the occasion to claim the first major medal of her career.
“You can’t believe how happy I feel right now,” said Castrejana, who was third in these championships two years ago in Madrid. “I hoped to jump well, but to get a national record and to win the gold... it was beyond my expectations.”
Olesya Bufalova of Russia, a relative newcomer to the event, moved from fourth to runner-up after her career best 14.50 in the fifth round. A former 400m hurdler, the 24-year-old improved steadily throughout the competition, with personal bests of 14.37 and 14.40 before her silver medal leap.
Teresa Nzola of France rose to the occasion as well, taking the bronze with a 14.49 leap, just a centimetre shy of the Russian, and a national record for France.
Legnante powers to Shot Put win
Assunta Legnante took command of the Shot Put in the second round with 18.71 and sealed the victory in the third with a near season’s best toss of 18.92 to claim the second gold medal of the weekend for Italy. It was the second continental medal for the 28-year-old national indoor and outdoor record holder, after her runner-up finish in 2002.
Taking the minor medals were Russians Irina Khudoroshkina (18.50), the 1996 Olympic bronze medallist and Olga Ryabinkina (18.16), who repeated her third place win from Madrid.
Illustrating the slide in quality of the event, Legnante is only the second woman to take the title with an effort of less than 19 metres.
Belarus upset Russia in 4x400
The competition concluded with a minor upset in the 4 x 400 metre Relay, with Belarus, anchored by 400 metre silver medallist Ilona Usovich, overpowering the favoured Russian quartet in 3:27.83, a national and championships record. Russia clocked 3:28.16 to take silver, while Great Britain propelled by a strong second leg by 400 champion Nicola Sanders, took third in 3:28.69 also a national record.
The next edition of the championships will be held in Turin, Italy, in March 2009.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF