The true spirit of Helsinki 2012
|Great Britain's Jo Pavey won her first major
international medal when she took the silver in the
women's 10,000m in Helsinki on Sunday.
Her name is Jo Pavey. She runs for Britain, she is 39 in September and she has been wearing an international vest for as long as she can remember.
In the two decades she has represented her country, she had never won a Championship medal on the track. But finally, after all the toil and hard work, she had a silver to take back to England to show her husband and coach Gavin and their young son Jacob.
And there was more. She was also heading to the Olympic Games in London on such a high that it probably will not matter if she finishes last there, which she will not do.
Pavey will never forget Helsinki and the new format of the European Athletics Championships from four years to two since the last event in Barcelona in 2010 because, more by luck than judgement, without this week in Finland, her career would have ended without a place on the podium for Britain at an event such as this one.
"I am so happy," she said. "I feel young again. I am really thrilled to win a medal."
Pavey, who won silver in the 5000m for England in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006, had been aiming for the marathon for the Olympics but she failed to make the team. She returned to the track and now heads to those Games on top of the world.
She said: "I have shown I have the ability to do it on the track still. It has been a blessing in disguise the chance I have had here to come and get a medal. I feel very fortunate."
Her story is one of so many from five days of competition where once more it proved it is not all about being first.
Was there a more excited quartet than Poland's sprint relay runners who were third behind Germany and the Netherlands?
Marika Popowicz, Daria Korczynska, Marta Jeschke and Ewelina Ptak made up the team and because of their exploits this weekend, not only did they end up with a bronze they also qualified their country for the Olympics.
Even with the huge crowd in the stadium on Sunday, their screams of joy at the end of their race could be heard way above anything else.
It is 18 years since the European Athletics Championships were staged in Helsinki and as this edition ends, there is no doubt that the famous old stadium has witnessed some outstanding moments once more.
The venue that staged the 1952 Olympic Games was also home to the first World Championships in 1983 and one person who remembered that well was more than amazed that she was here.
Merlene Ottey, at the age of 52, ran the anchor led for Slovenia in the 4 x 100m semi-final as they finished sixth.
"I am so happy to be running in Helsinki again," said Ottey, who 29 years ago won silver in the 200m running for Jamaica.
It is probable that this return to the Finnish capital will be here last appearance on a major stage.
If it is, what a place to bow out with the venue having played such a big part in her career when she was just 23 with her second-place then the biggest result of her career at the time.
Ottey went on to win three world championship golds in the 4 x 100m relay in Tokyo in 1991 and in the 200m in Stuttgart in 1993 which she defended in Gothenburg in 1995, yet still Helsinki was so much in her heart.
Not many young sprinters would ever expect to be on the same start line as such as legend as Ottey, but there they were as she rolled back the years with a fine run.
She could never have imagined to have still been plying her trade now but it is the love of the sport that has kept here, still capable of making teams.
And because of that, she will never forget Helsinki and the European Athletics Championships of 2012.