Beitia, 33, wins European indoor gold at fourth attempt as Swedes take silver and bronze | 03.03.2013
|Spains Ruth Beitia is ecstatic after winning the high
jump gold medal in Göteborg on Sunday.
But it was another story which came true for a 33-year-old representing Spain and – at this point – the rest of Europe who triumphed. And it was a triumph of experience over hope as Ruth Beitia, who won the European outdoor title at her fourth attempt in 2012, achieved European indoor gold after taking three silvers and a bronze with a season’s best clearance of 1.99, having toyed with the idea of retiring after missing a medal by one place at the London 2012 Olympics.
That height proved too much for Ebba Jungmark and Emma Green-Tregaro, who eventually finished with silver and bronze respectively after managing 1.96, which represented a personal best-equalling height for the former jumper.
After Beitia – who, like Jungmark had arrived at 1.99 without any failures – failed in her first attempt, the 25-year-old home jumper had the opportunity to take the initiative, but she could not quite manage to do so.
Beitia offered no such opportunity again, however, as she cleared at her second attempt to send the Spanish, rather than the Swedish flags waving in the stadium.
Jungmark’s second attempt at 1.99 was desperately close, as she dislodged the bar with the back of her knees; and Green-Tregaro, a silver and bronze medallist at the 2010 and 2012 European Championships respectively, came even closer with her final attempt.
Before she set off, Green-Tregaro slapped her legs, clutched her head, edged back and forth, got the crowd to clap to her rhythm. Beitia, meanwhile, was unable to watch, lying on the ground with a towel over her head. The sound she heard must have temporarily confused her as the crowd began to acclaim a clearance, only for the sound to transform itself into dismay as the bar seemed to drift down through the very draught of the Swede’s heels. Green-Tregaro watched the replay on the big screen and put her head momentarily in her hands over what might have been.
After two unsuccessful attempts to clear 2.02, which would have been a personal best by 1cm and a 2013 world-leading performance, Beitia bounced with joy on the landing pit, arms wide in triumph, before racing off to embrace her coach.
“I am happy because I thought it was my last chance in the London Olympics, but I feel good this season. I spent two months roller-skating but then decided I wanted to return to athletics. Now I want to party!”
“Today felt kind of unreal,” said Jungmark. “I have had some issues during this season but I was still dreaming of gold. I think that thinking got me to win a medal today, even though it was not gold. It was magical competing on home turf. I felt like I was Superman – or maybe Superwoman! Now I will just rest and make sure that my foot heals properly. I took some painkillers before the competition.”
Beitia was one of three jumpers over the age of 30 who were contesting the final. Venelina Veneva-Mateeva of Bulgaria, 38, went out after failing at 1.96. And 35-year-old Tia Hellebaut, who became Belgium’s first female Olympic champion in 2008, made an unexpectedly early exit having sailed through qualifying.
After two failures at 1.92, Hellebaut – who has returned to the sport having had two daughters in 2009 and 2011 – consulted urgently with her coach, but she was clearly not in an ideal frame of mind as she had to halt her approach run and re-trace her steps before failing in her third attempt. She removed her shoes before marching sadly back to her mark.
Also making an unexpectedly early exit was Italy’s 19-year-old world junior champion Alessia Trost, whose clearance of 2.00m heads the world lists. Trost had almost failed to progress to the final, scraping in as the eighth and final qualifier with a clearance of 1.92, and although she managed that height in the final she could go no higher.