Golovkina claims Russia's first European gold at 5000m
|Olga Glovkina bagged the first gold medal for Russia at the 2012
European Athletics Championships by winning the 5000m final in
15:11.70 in Helsinki on Thursday.
"First, the race didn't go the way I wished," said the winner. "The pace was rather slow. For a long time I couldn't find a proper place.
"On the home straight I felt I could get the second girl and then I managed to take the first. I am very happy, I didn't expect to win."
It was the Portuguese who was expected to figure amongst the medallists who provoked the first significant incident in the race when she false started and the field of 22 was recalled. The Portuguese was shown a yellow card and the race was duly re-started, though there was an anxious moment for Moreira when the track judge fiddled with his cards before producing the most innocuous.
The early protagonist, though, was Italy's Nadia Ejjafini who went straight to the front, covering the first 200m in 34.9 followed by Kovalenko. A first lap of 76.32 showed there would be no heroics, but with Kovalenko now in the lead the second lap saw an injection of pace (73.09) followed by an even swifter 72.05.
At 1000m (3:04.31) the order was Kovalenko, Ejjafini, Almensh Belete of Belgium and Britain's Julia Bleasdale who was to feature in the last lap rush for medals.
At this stage Moerira decided she had to make an impression and moved up to third. With the 2000m passing in 6:05.76, the pace was proving too much for the back of the field with nine already peeled off into no-man's-land.
Just when it seemed that a war of attrition was on the cards, the leaders suddenly lost their nerve and field started to bunch with Ejjafini once again up front as the lap was timed at 78.40 and they were five abreast along the back straight, jostling nervously as the 3000m was passed in 9:15.74.
With four laps to go, Moreira decided she had to do something about it and immediately injected some pace that resulted in the field being strung out along the track. At 4000m (12:22.15) the order was Moreira, Ejjafini and Bleasdale with the eventual gold and silver medallists choosing to stay in the background for the time being.
Two to go and the Briton had moved up onto Moreira's shoulder and starting to dream of a medal. But this was when Golovkona started her move.
Along the back straight the Russian had moved into third but Kovalenko was still in eighth as the bell sounded and she embarked on her last lap surge.
Up front, though, Moreira was still holding off Bleasdale while Golovkina was clear in third but seemingly making no impression.
In the final straight was where all the action happened as first Golovkina made her unstoppable bid for the line. Meanwhile, Kovalenko was moving fastest of all as a last lap of 62.43 was to show compared to the winner's 63.5.
40m to go and Moreira was still heading for gold, but then started to tread water along with Bleasdale as first Golovkina and then Kovalenko came rushing by.
On the line, Moreira raised her arms as though thinking she had won, but in the event she had lost silver by the slenderest of margins.
It was even crueller for Bleasdale who was to finish out of the medals after figuring for so long in the lead group, but she got some measure of reward with a PB 15:12.77.
Golovkina thus preserves her 100 percent record this season over 5000m. After winning the Russian indoor title in a personal best, she set an outdoor best in the Vladimir Kuts meeting two weeks ago in 15:11.20, a time she missed by just half a second here.
In fact, it has been a year of PBs for the 25 year old Moscow Luch athlete who has set five in all from 1500m up to 5000m.
In the last European championships in Barcelona, she finished 11th and now she is champion.
Kovalenko's only other championship medal, also a silver, was at last year's European U-23 championships in Kaunas where she carried off the 10,000m silver medal so this represents a considerable step-up.
For Moreira, it was the bitter pill of yet another bronze to match the medal she won in Barcelona two years ago, though she put on a brave face.
"Kovalenko and Golovkina are very strong runners and they were stronger at the finish line. It was good race and even though I lost by 0.02 seconds, I am happy with the bronze medal."