Before the start of the women’s 3000m, a glance at the season’s statistics might have been a guide to what the outcome would be.
There were the Russians Yelena Korobkina and Natalya Aristarkhova, the German Corinna Harrer and then Britain’s Lauren Howarth occupying places four to seven on the European Athletics rankings.
But once more in the twists and turns of track and field, times proved to be irrelevant as the gold went the way of Portugal’s Sara Moreira with a performance of glorious front-running, packed with confidence, strength, changes of pace and a marvellous kick.
She started the race eighth on those lists, but ended it with a gold.
Moreira gave another demonstration of her versatility with her first senior title to go alongside the three team golds she has from the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and the silvers and bronzes from outdoor and indoor European Athletics Championships.
She won in 8:58.50 from Harrer, who was second in 9:00.50, with Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton third in 9:00.54.
Moreira said: “The race is good for me and I am very happy.”
Britton is the SPAR European Cross Country champion after retaining her title in Budapest in December and for a woman who so wants to make her mark on the track, what a performance this was.
But she had an inspiration in front of her as Moreira, 27, was never out of the lead pack in a race which was packed full of drama because the start had to be re-run.
After the gun had fired the first time, the runners had reached 150m when it was realised that Howarth had fallen at the beginning. It was stopped, the runners were recalled and after composing themselves again, the event started once more.
Howarth, who was sixth in 9:04.04, said: “It was a bit of a distraction but you have to laugh at it, move on and get on with the race.
“I fell over at my last race at the Euro Cross and went flat on my face in the middle of the cross country, so I seem to like falling over.”
It might have affected her but Moreira was never going to let anyone go past her.
As she crossed the line and collapsed to the floor, she was surrounded by cameramen and women. She rose quickly to take in the applause of the crowd whose tempo rose when Moreira stepped up the speed of the race with 180m to go, the decisive kick that was the final punishment for those behind her.
Harrer was ecstatic with her silver. “This is amazing,” she said. “Last night I had a dream about winning a medal but I did not think I would actually do it. I wanted to take the first medal for Germany but Christina (Schwanitz, who won the shot put) was quicker.”
It was the first time that Britton had competed at an indoor championship and the Irish fans in the crowd could be heard loud and clear as she made her challenge which brought bronze by 0.05 of a second from Russian Korobkina.
“I am so happy I did not come fourth as it was so close between us and the danger people were all among the medals,” said Britton.
The most dangerous, though, was the woman in front, who used the brilliant skill of knowing that she might not have been the quickest beforehand but that so often does not matter in a Championship.
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