The 34th European Indoor Athletics championships started quietly in the morning session, and then, ended with a bang (literally) in the evening. It is 10 PM local time in Belgrade, and I am starting to tire.
Here's a reasonable commentary on the evening session, considering my jet lag.
Andy Pozzi is one of my favorite athletes, because of what he has overcome. Enduring five foot surgeries to pursue the discipline of hurdling is a bit much to ask for any athlete. This writer watched Pozzi blow the field away in Birmingham on February 18, at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix. Pozzi has the WL and PB, from Muller, of 7.43. Finishing fourth in two World Indoor Championships has to be just, well, difficult (insert British colloquial expletive here).
In a very tight race, Andy Pozzi kept his cool and endured to win the European Championships in a fine 7.51. Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, FRA, took the silver in 7.52 and hurdle museum piece (he's a bit older and wiser than the others), Petr Svoboda, took the bronze in 7.53, while Garfield Darien, FRA, was fourth in 7.54.
Hurdles were hit (by Lagarde and Darien, I believe), but Andy Pozzi kept his cool and leaned at the finish (see finish line photo below).
Andy Pozzi has some serious studs that he defeated. Pascal Martinot-Lagarde is the defending European champion, and fourth in both 2015 Beijing and 2016 Rio. Garfield Darien, another of the French hurdle studs, just missed a medal. Petr Svoboda, 2011 European Indoor Champion, has learnt some hard lessons over the length of a colorful career. Remember, kind readers, that Petr lead the Europeans in 2010 until he clobbered the seventh hurdle, where he went from numero uno to numero six. Today, Petr kept it together, and his leaping celebration showed the joy of a man who understands that bronze medals are as good as gold medals (well, a different color).
To remind us how close the race was, read this snipppet from Monsieur Martinot-Lagarde: "It was a very tight race, we all finished in block which makes it a good race. I actually won the silver medal in the finish line. I had a small inbjury scare ahead of these championships and could feel some pain when I finished the race although it didn't bother me whilst running."
As many coaches have told you, but the coach character (portrayed by actor, Scott Glenn, modeled after Chuck DeBus) in the American movie, Personal Best said best: Athletics is warfare. Reinforce the neuromuscular loop baby, make that lean at the finish so crisp, so real that you dream about it. This race was determined by centimeters.
This was a real battle, not always pretty, as hurdles hit screw up focus, but, Andy Pozzi learnt a big lesson today. Take those tough wins, because they are always sweeter the harder that they come. Pozzi and Martinot-Lagarde were so damn close that I wondered if the Brit got it. Petr Svoboda used that experience to take the bronze in the very last trying steps, and we know, but we forget in such exhausting duels, that races are not always won, but they sure are lost.
Tonight, Andy Pozzi won his first major gold medal, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde took the silver and Petr Svoboda grabbed the bronze. Just look at the photo!