Abitova steps down in distance to take gold in classy 10,000


A riveting 10,000m European Athletics Championship final was won by the Russian No2, Inga Abitova, in 30:31.42 in a race led by Netherlands Lornah Kiplagat for all of 9,500m. In a big surprise, Norways Susanne Wigene (30:32.36) came sprinting through for silver, while bronze went to another Russian, Lidiya Grigoryeva (30:32.72). Twelve of the top 20, including all the medallists, set personal bests in the race.
Most will have had Kiplagat to thank for that. The European Cross-country champion led the field in a swift pace from the start, passing the first kilometre in 3:04.14. On her shoulder was this years world leader for the distance, Elvan Abeylegesse (TUR) with Russian champion, Galina Bogomolova third. The second kilometre was reached in 6:05.78 with the Dutchwoman still in the lead and Abeylegesse tracking her steps. Just after the 3km mark in 9:09.68, a small gap opened between Abeylegesse and third placed Bogomolova, but Latvias Yelena Prokopcuka saw the danger and quickly closed it, moving into third.

By halfway, reached in 15:16.38, Wigene was hanging on to a group of eight including the 2002 5,000m European champion , Marta Dominguez (ESP), as Kiplagat ticked off the laps at sub-74sec pace. Nothing much happened up front until the group passed 7km, when Abeylegesse suddenly dropped off the pace and then off the track altogether. Abeylegesse leaned disconsolately on the advertising boards outside the track as the race continued without her.

Up front Kiplagat was still plugging away, but with the pace continuing at 75s, Wigene gratefully made contact again. With three laps to go, it was Dominguezs turn to find the pace too much, but with the three Russians, Prokopcuka and Wigene gathering for the final rush, there was danger at the Dutchwomans shoulder.

With 500m to go, Abitova pounced and immediately a gap opened. The 24-year-old produced an impressive finishing kick for a woman previously noted for running marathons, having won the Belgrade event last year and placing second in Mumbai earlier this year.

Behind her, Grigoryeva slipped into second with Wigene seemingly settling for third as Kiplagat was unable to respond. But with 300m to go the Norwegian dug deep and chased down Grigoryeva before setting her sights on Abitova. But the stocky Russian held on for gold.

"It was a fight until the last metres, I could take nothing for granted," said Abitova, who is the mother of a three-year-old boy, Yegor, and who comes from Novokuybishevsk, a town of just 150 inhabitants.
"If you ask me now whether I prefer the marathon or the track, I must say that the track is nicer - I have the gold medal."

By Matthew Brown
RusAthletics - Russian Athletics

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