It had not happened for 42 years, but with a run timed to blistering perfection, Poland’s Adam Kszczot created his own piece of history at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Göteborg.
Kszczot became only the third man to successfully retain the 800m title. He did so with a run that saw him stay at the back of the field for the opening two laps before taking control and then powering away to win 1:48.69.
“It is so special for me,” said Kszczot, 23. “Not many times has someone defended the title and I have now won it for the second time in my short athletics career. It is huge for me.”
The clock has to be turned back to Sofia in 1971 for the last occasion, when Yevgeniy Arzhanov, of the USSR, triumphed. Before him, the only other person to achieve this feat was Ireland’s Noel Carroll who won the 800m three times in a row in the first three European Athletics Indoor Championships.
Others have tried, and Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy won it twice – in 2000 and then again in 2009 – but Kszczot now has his own place in the record books.
With every answer to every question, a smile stretched across his face because he was so delighted with the achievement as he knew he was the man the others had to beat.
Indeed, it was tougher to keep hold of the crown than to win it in the first place which he did in Paris two years ago.
He triumphed in a dramatic race from Spain’s Kevin Lopez, who was second in 1:49.31, with Britain’s Mukhtar Mohammed third in 1:49.60.
“It is always hard to defend,” said Kszczot. “Why is that? It is because everyone is thinking of how to catch you, how to take your title for themselves and it is something which is around your head all the time.
“You know about it, even during a race. You have to be really focussed not to make mistakes.”
No fear of that today from the Polish star who was not going to be caught in any speed trap.
Lopez and fellow Spaniard Luis Alberto Marco took the field around for the first two laps, the opener in 26.26, the second in 30.15. But Kszczot stayed cool, watching the race develop him in front of him before slowly moving towards the front with 390m left.
Lopez upped the pace as Kszczot joined him before the champion moved away.
He was in command at the bell, quickly stretching further in front before along the home straight turning his head to his left to glance at the giant video screens that drop down from the centre of the arena showing the race.
He could see he was clear and he knew the title was his again.
Kszczot said: “The last 50m was a great moment for me because I was really happy when I saw the gap between the second guy and me.
“It was planned from the start, do not begin too fast. The Spanish guys were trying to make it slower and slower to hit the last 200m, but if it is like that, then anyone can win.
“I decided to push at the front at 400m and Lopez tried to go much harder and he was a pacemaker for me.”
Lopez made the podium and said: “I am happy with the silver but my main goal was the gold. I would have liked the gold.”
As Mohammed crossed the line, he was barged by Anis Ananenka, of Belarus, who finished fourth in 1:49.61.
Mohammed said: “It was a tough race between me and the guy from Belarus. At the end of the day, it is the cleverest and bravest guys that win Championships and Kszczot did very well to win.”
You could say that again.