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Medal Is Finally Gold For Abeylegesse

Ethiopian-born Turk wins women’s 10,000 meters convincingly.

Written by: David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Elvan Abeylegesse is used to winning medals in track and cross country, just not gold.  

That changed Wednesday night on the second day of competition at the European Championships in Athletics here when the Ethiopian-born Turk overpowered a strong field to win her first championship gold, taking the 10,000-meter title in a European-leading 31:10.23.

“It’s difficult to compare, but I am more happy now,” Abeylegesse told reporters with the help of a translator.  “Because I have Olympic and World Championships silvers, so now it is more satisfying for me.”

Abeylegesse, 27, let Virgin London Marathon champion Liliya Shobukhova set the early pace, going through two kilometers in a reasonable 6:23.44.  But in the fourth kilometer, Abeylegesse made one acceleration which put her in the lead for good.  She was alone at 5,000 meters in 15:42.27, and led all the way to the line for the win.

While the gold medal was locked up, there was an exciting battle for the remaining places on the podium.  For much of the race, Portugal’s Jessica Augusto was alone in second place, and Russia’s Inga Abitova –the defending champion– and the Netherlands’ Hilda Kibet were working together to catch her.  Augusto maintained a five-second lead lap after lap, but with two laps to go Abitova left Kibet to go after Augusto.

“When I was running with Kibet, I think I don’t take third place,” the smiling Abitova said in English after the race.  “I kept saying, run, run.  I catch you.”

With 500 meters to go, Abitova swept past the tiring Augusto. “I tried to go with her, but she caught me,” Augusto said in Spanish.  “I’m very happy with the bronze, but silver would have been better.”

Abitova, who was second at the Virgin London Marathon, clocked 31:22.83, comfortably ahead of Augusto’s 31:25.77.  Kibet held on for fourth in 31:36.90.

Shobukhova, the early leader and a medal favorite, dropped out with 13 laps to go.  Also failing to finish was Augusto’s Portuguese teammate, and another medal favorite, Sara Moreira.  She walked off of the track with 10 laps to go.

In qualifying races on Wednesday, Dutchman Robert Lathouwers, a potential medalist, was disqualified in the first round of the 800 meters.  Lathouwers tried to push past Irishman David McCarthy on the inside, but there wasn’t enough room. McCarthy put his left arm out to defend his position, making contact with Lathouwers who jumped into the infield for several strides, cutting the final turn.  Lathouwers crossed the finish line first, but was promptly disqualified by officials.