All roads lead to Tokyo for Kszczot after 800m hat-trick in Berlin

Adam Kszczot
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Poland's Adam Kszczot became the first athlete in history to win three 800m titles at the European Championships in Berlin last month

Adam Kszczot is the greatest 800m runner in the history of the European Athletics Championships, a fact he confirmed on the penultimate night of competition in Berlin last month.

With 220 metres left of the final in the German capital, the defending champion took off and put down the challenge to the rest: try to beat me.

They could not, and Kszczot triumphed for his third successive continental gold over two laps of the track in 1:44.59 with Sweden’s emerging talent Andreas Kramer second in 1:45.03 and France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, who beat Kszczot at the IAAF World Championships in London last season, third in 1:45.30.

In those few seconds, Kszczot, 29, was as imperious - and as tactically aware - as he has ever been, running negative splits of 53.57 and 51.02 to ensure the hat-trick of titles. Now, Kszczot is eyeing up glory at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

It was a public display of brilliance at Berlin's Olympic Stadium and when you enter the mind of the man, his words bring even greater substance to what he achieves on the track.

“You are tired at 600m and who attacks with 220m to go and wins? Not many,” said Kszczot, as he chatted exclusively with European Athletics. “But if you believe really hard that you can keep the pace and push so hard to be a winner; it defines the winner.”

Adam Kszczot hardly needs defining. He is the only man to win this European 800m title on three occasions and he puts so much of his success down to one thing.

“Planning, planning and once again planning,” said Kszczot, who had to manage an Achilles tendon injury in the build-up to his title defence. “To be really focused and strict.”

Coached by Zbigniew Krol, Kszczot is reaping the rewards and that planning.

"I changed coaches in 2012 and there have been a lot of changes since then, a huge effort, a new training programme and then came Zurich in 2014, Amsterdam in 2016 and now Berlin,” he said.

Kszczot is referring to his triple European 800m crowns, a glorious achievement for an athlete who has also won the European indoor title on three occasions (2011, 2013 and 2017). He won his first global title at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March to go alongside his two world outdoor silver medals.

He has to almost pinch himself to take in all his success, particularly his record-breaking achievement in Berlin.

“This is unbelievable,” said Kszczot. “A long time ago, when I was a young athlete, I could not imagine myself in this point of my career being such a successful man in the 800m. It is amazing, this is everything.

“It comes from balancing the physical and mental preparation and belief in your own way, your own path.”

But with all his success, there is one missing medal – that from the Olympic Games. And it is why his mind is now focused on that with him deciding to give the drama of the boards a rest.

“I am not going to do the indoors,” said Kszczot, who exited in the semifinal stage in London 2012 and then again in Rio de Janeiro four years later and is considering moving up to the 1500m after Tokyo 2020.

“Since 2007, I have done all indoor and outdoor (seasons). Now I am tired. I have to find some freshness and Olympic preparation takes two years. Now the real work comes.”

Along with the aforementioned planning, planning... and more planning.