Klosterhalfen and Tortu poised for European glory

Klosterhalfen flies into the record books
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Konstanze Klosterhalfen broke the sub-four minute barrier for 1500m on the road to the European Athletics U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz

A month away from the European Athletics U23 and European Athletics U20 Championships, it was a glorious night in Rome on Thursday for Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen and Italy’s Filippo Tortu at the fourth Diamond League meeting of the season. 

Klosterhalfen, 20, took another great stride after smashing the four-minute barrier for the 1500m while Tortu, 18, brought delight for the home crowd by running a sensational 20.34 in his first 200m at this level. 

In a few weeks’ time in Bydgoszcz, Klosterhalfen will take some stopping at the European U23 Championships after running a national U23 record of 3:59.30, the fastest time by a German since 1987 to move to third on the German all-time rankings. 

Klosterhalfen finished third to reigning world bronze medallist Sifan Hassan. Fresh from breaking the Dutch 5000m record in the Eugene Diamond League, Hassan made a terrific season’s debut at her specialist distance by setting a world-lead and meeting record of 3:56.22 but Klosterhalfen is quickly joining Hassan as one of Europe’s foremost 1500m runners after breaking her personal best by nearly eight seconds. 

In a world-class field, Klosterhalfen was a picture of composure on the start line and was never overawed, moving from fourth to third with two laps to go and then setting the challenge down for the rest by leading with 800 metres left. 

Hassan passed her at the bell but Klosterhalfen stayed in second until 40 metres from home when Kenya’s Winny Chebet moved into second where she finished in 3:59.16. 

But what a result this was for the two-time European U20 cross country champion, who this summer has already broken 15 minutes for the 5000m (14:51.38) and two minutes for the 800m (1:59.65). Along with this 1500m performance, no woman of her age has dipped under these barriers.

Exactly a week before his 19th birthday, Tortu gave himself a present to remember when he confirmed his outstanding ability to move to fourth on the European all-time U20 rankings with 20.34 behind Ramil Guliyev (20.04), Andrew Howe (20.28) and Christian Malcolm (20.29). 

And how fitting to achieve such a result at this of all meetings, named after Italy’s legendary Pietro Mennea, the Olympic champion in 1980 who still holds the European 200m record with 19.72. 

Tortu, the 100m silver medallist from last summer’s World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, made a brilliant start from lane seven in the Olympic Stadium and led on the bend before Canada’s Andre De Grasse came storming through in a season’s best of 20.01. 

France’s Christophe Lemaitre showed he is back on the road to top form after a calf injury, coming through strongly in the home straight to take second with 20.29 ahead of American Ameer Webb (20.33) with Tortu taking an excellent fourth in 20.34. 

He brought his time down from 20.92 and what a reception he will receive at the European U20 Athletics Championships at home in Grosseto in July. He may now decide to double up but this experience on such a big senior stage will do him wonders for his progression.