Isabelle Pedersen and her cold corner of hurdle hell, photo courtesy of European Athletics
So, I asked Stuart Weir to write a column each and every day of the 34th European Indoor Athletics Championships, with focus on key themes and also the British team. As a resident of the former colonies, I am always fascinated by the British team. I am also fascinated about the European experience with 49 of 51 countries in Europe competing in this wonderful championships.
“This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper.” (TS Eliot, The Hollow Men)
The 34th European Indoor Athletics Championship in Belgrade, Serbia started not with a bang but with successive false starts in the first heat of the 60H (Pentathlon) – two bangs and several whimpers! To be pedantic it was a faulty start followed by a false start and a DQ but either way it was not the hit-the-ground running launch that we were hoping for.
It didn’t get any better when the individual events got under way – in the second heat of the women’s 60H two false starts saw three athletes disqualified – not to mention a faulty start in the next heat! In the three men’s 60H heats we saw three more DQs.
Then there was the Women’s 60 metres hurdles final. This was the sequence:
1 Isabelle Pedersen (Norway) disqualified
2 Isabelle Pedersen (Norway)reinstated.
3 Faulty start – green card
4 Race run and Cindy Roleder (Germany) won in 7.88
Incidentally, I believe that a green card means that all the athletes may work in the USA unless, of course, they come from one of the countries on the banned list.
The Kombank Arena, more used to hosting Belgrade’s two professional basketball teams, can hold 20,000. Its capacity will hardly be tested today with the seating perhaps 10% full for the first morning but with a decent crowd for the afternoon/evening session. Hopefully the weekend will be better.
With Jess Ennis having retired and Mo Farah having run his last ever indoor competition to concentrate on the roads after a final track season, that the GB team for the championship contained a number of young athletes seemed entirely appropriate.
Team GB won 9 medals in 2015 and 8 in 2013. While Performance Director, Neil Black resolutely refuses to set medal targets, he admitted at the team pre-event press conference that a similar performance in Belgrade seemed realistic. By the end of the first day, the GB haul stood at 1 – a gold for Andy Pozzi in the 60 metres hurdles who beat Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (France) by a hundredth of a second to win the race. Pozzi said afterwards: “I was a bit slow out of the blocks and I knew I would have to fight for it”. But Pozzi, who has come back from terrible injuries is nothing if not a fighter.
Strongest medal hope, Laura Muir, progressed successfully into the final of the 1500 and the 3000, running one heat in the morning and another in the afternoon. She now has a final on each of the two remaining days. Muir was 5th in the 3000 heat and reached the final as what in the UK is called “a fastest loser” – one of the few times that Muir can be called a loser.
The biggest British loser of the day was Eilidh Doyle, a former European Indoor silver medallist, who finished third in her heat by 0.05 of a second and was the fastest non-qualifier. She said of the race that not making the final was gutting, adding: “I knew Hejnova was there and I was trying to beat her so I’d get a good lane. But I’m absolutely gutted to get caught out by the Polish girl [Malgorzata Holub] as well”.
Much of the British media attention has been on the Nielsen twins, Laviai and Lina running against each other in the individual 400 and together in the relay. That they were both kit carriers at London 2012 added to the story. Sadly Lina was injured and had to withdraw: “absolutely heartbroken and gutted … in the best shape of my life. What felt like a small bruise on the side of my leg has turned out to be a Grade 2 stress response on my fibula”. Laviai made it comfortably through.
Overall an interesting and entertaining day but I do think that something needs to be done about the starting farce.