Moller breaks championship record to retain her 3000m steeplechase title

Anna Emilie Moller
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Denmark's Anna Emilie Moller retained her title in the 3000m steeplechase and also set a championship record

Anna Emilie Moller’s margin of ascendency in the 3000m steeplechase final was such the eventual silver medallist had only just cleared the water jump for the final time when the Dane had crossed the finish-line and was on the search for a red and white flag to celebrate with.

The reigning champion led every step of the way and her front running efforts brought her home almost ten seconds inside the championship record with 9:27.31. Her scale of dominance was reminiscent of Alina Reh’s in the 10,000m on the second night of the championships and they are both on the entry-list for tomorrow night’s 5000m final.

Moller was one of the few entrants with a lifetime best inside the 10 minute-mark but that didn’t stop the nerves from jangling before the race. 

“It is true I was very confident after winning the qualification race, simply because my PB is much better than the rest of the girls,” said Moller, who also won the European U23 cross country title in December. “I was still nervous coming in to the race, as per usual. Anything can happen! I always go into a race very determined, and very focused, no exception here.”

Ireland’s Eilish Flanagan and Romania’s Claudia Prisecaru took silver and bronze respectively in lifetime bests of 9:51.72 and 9:53.21.

Ukraine’s Yuliya Levchenko also retained her title in the high jump with a first-time clearance at 1.97m - her sixth first-time clearance of the competition - before three attempts at a would-be championship record of 2.00m.

The head-to-head with world U20 champion Karyna Taranda didn’t quite materialise as the Belarusian, who recently cleared 2.00m, had to settle for fourth on countback at 1.92m behind Germany’s Christina Honsel and Finland’s Ella Junnila.

While Taranda led the European U23 list with 2.00m, Honsel’s pre-competition lifetime best outdoors stood at a modest 1.84m but she broke that mark three times and crucially cleared 1.92m on her first attempt.

“I could never have thought of getting a medal before the championships, the other jumpers were really good and it never even cross my mind that I would get a silver medal here today,” she said.

The Poles had another excellent evening in Gavle, winning two more titles to take their overall tally up to four gold medals.

After anticipated victories from Ewa Swoboda in the 100m and Konrad Bukowiecki in the shot put yesterday, Natalia Kaczmarek set a lifetime best of 52.34 in the 400m final to run down Czech favourite Lada Vondrova - who also reached the 400m hurdles final in the same session - before Cyprian Mrzyglod produced an exceptional throw in the sixth round to seal gold in the javelin.

Mrzyglod’s second round throw of 81.74m was eclipsed by just one centimetre by Romania’s Alexandru Novac in the fifth round. The Pole’s fifth round throw of 81.16m fell short of the lead but his sixth attempt of 84.97m not only surpassed Novac’s lead but also broke the championship record of 84.57m which was set by Finland’s Ari Mannio a decade ago. 

“This is an amazing feeling right now, my throw was absolutely fantastic. I feel very good - although I was under a lot of pressure before the last attempt. Novac had just done a massive throw, but I knew I could do even better, so I gave it my all,” said Mrzyglod, who won gold at U20 level in Grosseto in 2017.

Spain won two gold medals in the space of 30 minutes on the third evening session in Gavle. The first gold medal was not widely predicted - if at all predicted - as Alberto Gonzalez defeated resounding favourite and reigning champion Bence Halasz from Hungary in the hammer.

Gonzalez gave a hint of what was in store by throwing 73.29m in heavy rain in yesterday’s qualifying round but the Spaniard pulled out a timely personal best of 74.36m in the fourth round to surpass Halasz’s first round throw of 74.14m.

“I was very aware Bence was throwing well, so I had to up my game to win,” commented Gonzalez. “A new PB is also incredible - I'm very happy.”

Ignacio Fontes then won a typically tactical 1500m final, weaving his way out of a seemingly impossible position with 200 metres remaining to put himself in a position to strike in the home straight. 

The 21-year-old did just that, produced a last lap inside 54 seconds for a clear win in 3:50.38, maintaining Spain’s excellent tradition in the event. Past winners of this title have included Reyes Estevez (1997) and Arturo Casado (2005).

“That last lap was crazy! In order to come back from fifth to win I really had to give it all in, especially in the last 300 metres. My coach told me to run for my life all the way to the finish line, and to avoid looking back,” he said.

If Fontes was to glance back, he would have seen a chaotic scramble play out for the minor medals. Less than one-tenth separated the next four finishers with Great Britain’s Piers Copeland making a late dash on the inside to win silver in 3:50.89 by 0.01 from Serbia’s Elzan Bibic who made a brave break with 700 metres remaining.

There was also double gold for Great Britain on the track. Jemma Reekie might be better known for her exploits over 1500m and 3000m but she dropped down to win a tactical 800m in 2:05.19 from teammate Ellie Baker (2:06.33). At the end of the programme, Shemar Boldizsar doubled the British medal haul in the 200m in 20.89. 

Jimmy Gressier won the 10,000m title on the first day of the championships by surging away with four laps remaining. The outcome was the same two days later in the 5000m but the mercurial Frenchman left it to the last lap on this occasion, unleashing a final circuit of 55.81 to win the title in 14:16.55.

Gressier won his first major title at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in 2017, leading a French one-two in the U23 race ahead of compatriot Hugo Hay. The order was repeated two years later with Hay taking another individual silver in 14:17.00.