A fortnight of towering glories continued for Eilish McColgan as she battled extreme post-Commonwealth Games fatigue and the attentions of a high-class field to claim glittering European 10,000m silver in Munich. The 31-year-old had been so tired before this race that she had spent the day in a deep sleep. Still, fueled by caffeine and the desire for her third medal in 12 days, she produced another performance of immense grit and steel.
In stormy conditions, McColgan applied the template that had served him so well in Birmingham, pushing to the front early and applying cobra-like pressure through painful lap after lap. But this time Kenyan-born Turkish athlete Yasemin Can proved to have a powerful antidote.
With seven laps to go, Can made a decisive move, breaking before coming home in 30min 32.57sec. But McColgan had enough in the tank to beat Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter to silver in the final lap in 30 minutes 41.05 seconds.
“I’ve felt really tired all week,” McColgan admitted afterward. “It’s been several nights since I didn’t sleep after the 10,000 meters in Birmingham and then I had to do it again in the 5,000 meters. And then all the media the next day, when you’re up all day at dawn, I’m not used to it.
“All I did today was sleep. My roommate just thought I was dead. And even though the housekeeper came in, I didn’t even hear it. I was totally knocked out.”
However, McColgan still packed a punch when it mattered. After a leisurely first kilometer, he decided enough was enough and started. Soon the field was clambering and screaming. With 18 of the 25 laps remaining, only four athletes remained in the competition. And although the gold ultimately proved beyond her, this was another impressive performance.
“I didn’t want a burnt-out last kilometer,” McColgan said. “But when the pace picked up, I didn’t quite have that zip. But that was probably to be expected. I’m not superhuman and I have to respect that my legs were tired.
“And I knew it was going to be tough with Can. I knew she was the one to beat tonight and she was very strong. I couldn’t hang with her.”
Meanwhile, the night’s most powerful story came from Britain’s 400m runner Laviai Nielsen after she won her heat in a season’s best 51.60 seconds, then revealed that, like her twin sister Lina , has multiple sclerosis.
“I was diagnosed last year, two days before I flew to the Olympics, which was great for my mental health,” Laviai said. “I saw Lina when she was diagnosed when she was 17 and she went through a very dark period. No 17-year-old should have to deal with that. I saw her depressed face.
“I looked back at the nine years he had and thought, ‘I’ll be fine’. I have the most perfect example in front of me. I dealt with it in my own way, but since then he’s been very positive and we’ve helped each other each other in all this.”
Earlier there were extraordinary scenes in central Munich as Germany’s Richard Ringer produced an impressive sprint to win the men’s marathon.
With 200m to go it looked like Israel’s Maru Teferi was a certainty for gold, with the BBC commentary team of Steve Cram and Paula Radcliffe announcing that victory was “absolutely” his. However, Ringer, a former European bronze medalist over 5,000m, used his speed on the track to claim an impressive victory in 2:10.21, two seconds ahead of Teferi.
On Tuesday, Dina Asher-Smith returns from a hamstring injury to defend her European 100m title against compatriot Daryll Neita and Swiss indoor 60m world champion Mujinga Kambundji. On the men’s side, Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs is the favourite, with reigning champion Zharnel Hughes the main danger.
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