Before this weekend’s European indoor championships there were probably a number British athletics fans who didn’t even know who Lee Emanuel was, let alone those in Europe and even if they did, it was perhaps only because he ran 3.35 in Birmingham two weeks ago. Yet by seven o’clock this evening, few could still say the same, as the Sussex born runner held on magnificently to become the European 3000 metre silver medalist in only his second appearance in a GB vest.
At 30 years of age, Emanuel is an athlete in the form of his life and suddenly one with a new perspective to his running, so much so that even after making his international breakthrough he still seemed dissatisfied: “I’m a little bit disappointed, I came here to try and win, the Turkish guy had a little bit too much of a gap, I gave it everything I had, he was just too good for me.”
While it’s no surprise to know that as an elite athlete he wanted to win, when looking back on the race in a few days time, I’m sure he will be more than satisfied. Especially given that his performance of 7:44.48 was so good that it toppled Andy Vernon off of fourth on the Uk all-time list. Not to mention the fact that he kept chasing winner Ali Kaya when others couldn’t, as the soon to be champion continued to stride further ahead on his way to a new championship record.
From the start, the City of Sheffield athlete looked calm and composed, sticking just off of the leader as they cruised around 1k in 2:34 and then as a group began to break away just a lap later, he made sure that he was very much involved. Keeping with Turk, Kaya for another 400m before his speed became too much.
Even then, as European outdoor bronze medalist stretched into an unassailable lead, Emanuel refused to sit back and rest on the brilliance of a fantastic kick. He left the rest of his rivals and kept on chasing his dream of gold. So as he began to appear to pay for it and 1500m special Henrik Ingebrigtsen started to close the gap between the pair he was rewarded with enough steel to hold on, despite suffering badly: “That last 1k was hard, with 600m to go I didn’t think I was going to finish, I was kind of toughing it out, gritting my teeth to hold on to that medal, Which I thought I could.” he said afterwards
For Ingerbritsen there is now a chance for greater glory in tomorrow’s 1500m, a race that Emanuel could have easily been involved in after his brilliant performance at the Birmingham indoor Grand Prix. Which aside from the heroics of Mo Farah’s amazing world record, was otherwise the British performance of the day. Especially given that before this season his indoor best for the discipline was only 3:48. Although said he should have followed that up by running the distance in Prague after today he will feel fully vindicated in his decision to choose the longer alternative. Although I’m shore the focus will switch back for the outdoor season, where he will be hoping to make up for a disappointing exit in the heats of last year’s Commonwealth Games.
As for his previous anonymity, which is due in part to the distance runner being based in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the last 6 years. It seems unlikely to remain the same even if his best performances continue to come more frequently from outside his country of birth.
Especially as with a now found sense of belonging within the team: “It’s a big step for me coming to this competition, I finally feel like I belong here now.”
“I’ve kind of disappointed when I’ve ran for GB or England before so it’s nice to come out here and show what I can actually do.” he said.