Lee Emanuel (coach: Joe Franklin) proved that perseverance and hard work pay off as he ran a brave race to take European Indoor Championships 3000m silver on the second night of competition in Prague.
At 30 years of age, Emanuel has been to two Commonwealth Games and the World Indoor Championships last year, but until tonight had made no real impact. This time though, he came into it in the form of his life, and finally possessed the confidence to excel at this level.
Going with the fast early pace of adopted Turk and eventual winner Ali Kaya, Emanuel sat in a group of four, which by half way had disintegrated, leaving him with a solo run in Kaya’s wake. He stuck to the task though, and maintained second place all the way to the line to be rewarded with silver and a 7.44.48 personal best.
“The way the race went I don’t think I could have done any better to be honest. I wanted to win, I thought I could win, but I think I underestimated how good that Turkish guy is. Sometimes you’ve just got to take your hat off and say he was better than me today!
“I didn’t think he was going to run that fast, I thought if he took it out and ran 7.44 pace I could probably out kick him, but 7.38 was probably a bit much for me today. What he’s just done was incredible.
“Looking at how the race went I finished as high as I probably could have so I’ve got to be delighted by it.”
On his GB & NI debut, Phil Hurst (Martin Crowe) acquitted himself well in the final, just as he did in his heat, to finish ninth in 8.51.94, less than a second outside his personal best.
Thirty minutes earlier Seren Bundy-Davies (Stephen Ball) capped a story of stark contrast with a bronze in the women’s 400m. A new name in the GB & NI team, Bundy-Davies shot to the top of the European rankings with a 51.72 win at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix and as such wore the blue bib coming into the championships.
However after only scraping through to the final on a photo finish, a medal from lane two at her first senior championships seemed like a big ask. But the Welsh woman was up for the challenge, running 52.46 for third.
Post-race yesterday Bundy-Davies said she was going to attack the first 400m much more, and running from lane two, she did just that, reaching the break in second place. It was all to play for coming off the final bend, and immune to the bumping and barging on her outside, she held her form, dug deeper than ever and held on for a hard fought bronze medal.
“I’m really delighted with a medal from my first senior championship but I did at least want a silver! I know that sounds really funny but I have such high expectations of myself! I felt so heavy in that last 50m! I’m happy with the performance on the whole but I would hope to build on it in the relay.
“I feel amazing and I think this is a big achievement for me indoors, as people know I’m not physiologically right and my running style isn’t suited to indoors. Outdoors is going to be really exciting for me!”
Just like Emanuel in the men’s race, Laura Muir (Andy Young) ran an extremely brave race but was denied a medal by less than a second when finishing fourth in 8.52.44. Part of a small lead group all the way, Muir fought hard in the closing stages but couldn’t quite catch the bronze medal winning Dutch athlete over the final 200m.
“I’m disappointed but at the end of the day I am glad that I was able to run the race I wanted to run. 4th in a big championship is good but I wanted a medal of course. The field was of a very high level and it was tough out there.”
After winning her heat yesterday, Emelia Gorecka (Mick Woods) didn’t quite have the legs in the final, ending up twelfth in 9.06.79 in only her fourth ever indoor race.
There was drama in the women’s 800m as Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter) appeared to be knocked out after finishing fourth in her semi-final with only three automatic spots available. However after a successful appeal against the Russian athlete Bazdyreva, who stepped off the inside of track in the last 20m, she was bumped up to third and will now line up tomorrow afternoon.
After suffering with a cold all week, perhaps Meadows’ luck is finally turning, and she’ll hope to be fully healthy and back to her best in the final tomorrow.
“The news has come as a bit of a shock, but that’s indoor athletics for you! I’ve warmed down properly, had some therapy from the support team and I’m putting all my energies into recovering from tonight’s semi-final.”
There were no such issues for Guy Learmonth meanwhile, as he ran one of the best races of his young career to advance to the men’s 800m final. In contention the whole way, the Scottish Commonwealth Games finalist attacked down the home straight, coming through for the win in 1.50.50.
“I just made sure I was near the front; I was quite spatially aware with where I was on the track. I was conscious of where they were and felt Repcik on my shoulder all the way round. I had to run outside lane one a little bit to make them run wide but I’m happy with how I executed the race and that I’m in that final tomorrow.”
Full coverage can been across the BBC all weekend, via BBC 1, BBC 2, the red button and online at bbc.co.uk/sport.
Live results throughout the weekend can be found at: https://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-athletics-indoor-championships/2015/schedules-results/
There will also be live commentary of all the action via @BritAthletics on twitter, as well as session by session reports at www.britishathletics.org.uk