Men's middle distance & steeplechase | 24.12.2012
|Henrik Ingebrigtsen of Norway crosses the line to win the 1500m
in Helsinki at the European Athletics Championships.
Spain's former European junior champion Kevin Lopez was the continent's fastest man over two laps of the track when he clocked a national record of 1:43.74 at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Monaco.
However, the race fell between the summer's two big championships and the 22-year-old Lopez only made the semi-finals in both Helsinki and London.
Russia's 2004 Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy, now 31, won his first European Athletics Championships title when he unleashed his famous fast finish to good effect in Helsinki, winning in 1:48.51.
It was the slowest winning time in 50 years but times rarely matter at major championships.
At the Olympics, pride of place among the European middle-distance runners went to Great Britain's Andrew Osagie, who finished eighth in the famous final which saw Kenya's David Rudisha set a world record.
Osagie's time of 1:43.77 was the second fastest by a European this year and a personal best.
The next three fastest men on the European list after Lopez and Osagie: the Polish pair of Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski, and The Netherlands' Robert Lathouwers, all had their outing of the year in a fast race at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in the Dutch town of Hengelo on 27 May; which Kszczot won in 1:43.83 to be the third European under 1:44 this year.
Czech Republic's Jakob Holusa took the 800m silver medal at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in March but, despite clocking a personal best of 1:45.11 in the summer, fell slightly short of expectations outdoors. Osagie and Kszczot finished immediately behind their Czech rival in Istanbul back in March.
Overall, 11 European runners went under 1:45 this year, and another eight went under 1:46.
Norway's Henrik Ingebrigtsen may not have been the fastest European runner in terms of time but the 21-year-old showed that he is a danger in any championship setting thanks to a phenomenal turn of speed down the home straight.
He uncorked a sub-54 second last lap to bring him home a metre in front of the best of the rest in a tactical European Athletics Championships final, which saw him cross the line in 3:46.20.
Showing it was no fluke, despite only being rated as an outside prospect for a medal prior to the Championships, Ingebrigtsen was then the leading European at the Olympics when coming home fifth in a national record of 3:35.43.
Ingebrigtsen finished off his year in fine fashion by also winning the SPAR European Cross Country Championships under 23 gold medal over 8km, which suggests that he ultimately could have a fine future over 5000m as well.
Turkey's Ilham Tanui Özbilen thrilled the home crowd at the World Indoor Championships, when he took the silver medal, and he then ran the fastest European time of the year when he clocked 3:33.32 at the Samsung Diamond league meeting in Doha. However, Achilles problems then hindered his ambitions of further success.
He finished sixth in an untidy final in Helsinki but made a partial recover to make the Olympic final, where he finished eighth and was the only other European representative apart from Ingebrigtsen.
Germany's 2010 European Athletics Championships silver medallist Carsten Schlangen was the only other man under 3:34, running a personal best of 3:33.64 in July, but he suffered poor races when it counted and went out in the heats in Helsinki and semi-finals in London.
Eight European runners went under 3:35 this year.
France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was the best European over the barriers, without a doubt.
He defended his European title in a pedestrian 8:33.23 to become the first man since Bronislaw Malinowski in 1974 and 1978 to win at two consecutive Championships.
Mekhissi-Benabbad then headed a four-strong continental contingent in the Olympic final when he took the silver medal in 8:20.00.
Into the bargain, he had the fastest time by a European steeplechaser when he ran 8:10.90 at the European Athletics Premium Meeting in Lille on 9 June.
Otherwise, it wasn't a particularly vintage year for European steeplechasing although Spain's Angel Mullera and Victor Garcia, the two men immediately behind Mekhissi-Benabbad in terms of time, both made good improvements.
Mullera ran 8:13.71 in the Samsung Diamond League final in Brussels while Garcia, who was to take the bronze medal at the European Athletics Championships, won on home soil at the European Athletics Classic Meeting in Huelva back in June, crossing the line in 8:15.20.
Six men went under 8:20 this year including Turkey's 2012 European Athletics Championships silver medallist Tarik Langat Akdag, who ran a national record of 8:17.85 in his heat at the Olympic Games.
The 2012 European top 30 lists can be found here.