Hinriksdóttir's historic double for Iceland

Hinriksdottir Anita
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Aníta Hinriksdóttir of Iceland on her way to winning the women's 800m final during the European Athletics Junior Championships in Rieti. 

Aníta Hinriksdóttir couldn't stop smiling as she stood in the mixed zone last Saturday after her 800m final at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Rieti. It was the end of quite a week for the waif-like middle distance runner with the awkward elbows and the lean-forward style.

Just seven days earlier she'd become Iceland's first ever global athletics champion when she took the two-lap title at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, and now – a week, many miles, and two races later – the 17-year-old prodigy had added the European junior crown for good measure.

And she'd done so in style, fearlessly taking on a field of bigger, older and stronger-looking runners with a committed piece of front-running that left all but Ukraine's Olena Sidorska floundering in her wake. It was another first for her small, north Atlantic nation – its first gold medal at a European junior championships, the previous best being a pole vault silver to Vlaa Flosadottir in 1997.

But it had been a hard won victory for Hinriksdóttir, as Sidorska tracked the fast-starting Icelander through 400m in 58.3, began to close a five-metre gap down the back straight, and moved onto her shoulder as they entered the home stretch.

For a moment it looked like Henriksdóttir would falter, but she tilted even further forward and pumped her flailing arms and legs harder, clawing her way to the line first in 2:01.14, just one hundredth of a second slower than her winning time in Donetsk and less than a second outside her personal best of 2:00.49.

She was, by just a few moments, the second 2013 world youth champion to win gold in Rieti as Turkey's Emel Dereli had secured the shot put title while she was racing.

"I'm happy even if I struggled for this medal," said Hinriksdóttir. "I made a too fast start and I have to improve my race tactics.

"Last week I became world youth champion at this distance and taking this double medal was really important for me.

"I wanted to set a personal record but I started a little bit too fast," she added. "In the last 200m I was very tired because I started so fast, but still I managed to finish OK. It was not really fast, but fast enough. I'm really happy about it."

Hinriksdóttir's desire, not just to win, but to win fast says much about her go-for-it attitude to the event. She'd expressed the same aim to break her PB before the Donetsk final despite at first being disqualified from her semi-final for breaking out of her lane too early, a judgement later overturned.

In the final, she again threw caution aside, took the lead after 300m and was never passed, leaving Ethiopia's Dureti Edao and Raevyn Rogers of the USA for silver and bronze more than two seconds back.

It was an historic achievement, although back in Reykjavik any celebrations had to be put on hold as Hinriksdóttir flew straight to Italy for the second half of her double challenge. She arrived expecting to face Jessica Judd, the British 18-year-old who had triumphed at the European Athletics Team Championships in Gateshead and beat a field of fully-fledged seniors at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham.

Judd won the world junior silver medal in Barcelona last summer when Hinriksdóttir was fourth, and is the only under-20 year-old in the continent with a faster time than the Icelander. But in the end Judd opted out of the Rieti championships after her elevation to Britain's senior squad for the Moscow Worlds.

That was shame for those watching in Italy, although in all likelihood Hinriksdóttir would have run the same way anyway – head down from the start. That's what she did in the semi-final on Thursday when she flew round the first lap in 57.81, some 20 metres ahead of the field. She slowed, of course, but still crossed the line almost a second clear in 2:02.61.

She'd had to paddle through puddles round the top bend of the track following a passing thunderstorm. "It was very good to get a rest yesterday," she admitted after the final, at last able to relax and take it all in following her hard journey to two gold medals.

"I think I am ok," she said. "I don't really know how I'm feeling because I'm so tired. But I think I am good."

Sensibly, perhaps, Hinriksdóttir will not run in Moscow for fear of overstretching herself after such a busy year, competing instead at Iceland's national championships and then taking what she calls "a little break from the track" before returning to train for the European Athletics Championships in Zurich next year, her first tilt at a senior title.

It's been a long road for the Reykjavik teenager who started in athletics aged 10, following her parents, who were both distance runners, and her aunt Martha Ernstodottir, who was 45th in the Sydney 2000 Olympic marathon.

These days she usually trains six times a week, coached by Gunnar Paul Joakimsson, although it's less often during the busy summer schedule of races and travel.

Inevitably, some US colleges have already come calling, hoping to draw such a talented young runner away from her island home. But for the moment, Hinriksdóttir is content to stay put where she is part of a small, close-knit running community.

"I have such a good coach that I will stay and train in Iceland until at least the Rio Olympics," she says.

"I think it's a good place to be. I have such good training partners, I train with the boys. We have nice paths in the woods that are very good for running, a track, and in the winter we have an indoor track. I do a lot of training indoors but I also like running in the snow, it makes you stronger.

"In the Icelandic team we are only five athletes at these championships and most of us come from Reykjavik. I like the team spirit that links us.

"Yesterday, one of us made the national junior record in the 200m and we were all excited for him."

Just as the whole country, no doubt, is all very excited about her.