ECh Results: Zivilé Balciünaité Wins Marathon Gold

By Jörg Wenig
Zivilé Balciünaité is the new women’s European marathon champion. ©
Zivilé Balciünaité is the new women’s European marathon champion. ©

Thirty-one-year-old Lithuanian Zivilé Balciünaité overcame warm temperatures on Saturday to win the European marathon title—the greatest win of her career thus far. Her finishing time was 2:31:14 hours. Nailya Yulmanova of Russia won silver in 2:32:15 and Anna Incerti of Italy took the bronze medal in 2:32:48.

“After many years of injuries winning the European title makes me feel born again,” said Zivilé Balciünaité, whose best time of 2:25:15 at the Tokyo Marathon five years ago made her one of the race’s favorites. Taking 14th in the 2004 Olympic marathon in Athens and 11th in 2008 in Beijing—both very warm races—Zivilé Balciünaité had already established herself as a good, warm-weather runner. She further proved this capability on the 10-kilometer lap course around Barcelona’s inner city on Saturday.

Approximately twelve runners reached the half in 1:16:24. Marisa Barros led the field early on. The 30-year-old Portuguese runner, a sixth-place finisher at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin and one of the pre-race favorites, eventually finished eighth in 2:35:43.

In contrast to Marisa Barros, Zivilé Balciünaité held back in the first half of the race. When she picked up the pace at 28K, none of her rivals could follow and the group was scattered. At the 30K mark (1:48:38), she was leading by 10 seconds. Anna Incerti and Nailya Yulamanova who were engaged in their own private duel for the silver medal, trailed behind. By 35K, the lead had been increased to 35 seconds. Zivilé Balciünaité looked unbeatable. “That was simply my day. I like running in the heat, it doesn’t bother me. So that’s why I felt confident and was even sure I was going to win. The course also suited me: no hills and not too many corners—everything was perfect for me,” said the European champion, who extended her lead still further during the closing stages.

Nailya Yulmanova, who placed eighth ahead of Anna Incerti at the World Championships, eventually won the contest for second place. It was the first major championship medal for both runners. Taking places four to eight were Tetyana Filonyuk (Ukraine/2:33:57), Isabella Andersson (Sweden/2:34:43), Olivera Jevtic (Serbia/2:34:56), Alessandra Aguilar (Spain/2:35:04), and Marisa Barros (2:35:43).

Men’s 5,000m Final

Mo Farah runs a fantastic 5,000m in Barcelona. ©
Mo Farah runs a fantastic 5,000m in Barcelona. ©

Mo Farah became the first runner since Salvatore Antibo of Italy in 1990 to achieve the long distance double at the European Championships. The Briton took home his second gold in the championships by winning the 5,000m in Barcelona’s Olympic stadium. Mo Farah’s first gold came in the 10,000m earlier in the week. In a thrilling race with an increasing pace over the final 800 meters, the Londoner went clear to win in 13:31.18 minutes. The defending champion from Spain, Jesus Espana, took silver in 13:33.12. Hayle Ibrahimov (Azerbaijan) finished third in 13:34.15.

“It feels fantastic to have won both the 10,000 and the 5,000m,” said Mo Farah. For much of the final, the pace was slow as the runners held back. With approximate kilometer splits of 2:50 minutes, the lead pack initially comprised 15 runners. The pace increased after 4K as Spain’s European Cross Country champion, Alemayehu Bezabeh, went to the front. Three laps from the finish, Mo Farah made a move and the leading group was reduced to six.

Mo Farah kept a relentless pace, and was able to separate from Alemayehu Bezabeh and then Daniele Meucci, Italy’s bronze medalist in the 10,000m. Mo ran the second-to-last lap in 59.15 seconds and only Hayle Ibrahimov and Jesus Espana were able to follow going into the last 400m. Off the final bend, the Briton found something extra and kicked away to clock 55.70 seconds for the last lap, leaving his pursuers no chance. In the contest for silver and bronze medals, it was Jesus Espana who was able to pass Hayle Ibrahimov in the home straight to finish second.

“There was a point in the race when I thought my gold medal hopes were in danger. I had a slight problem with my knee but it was ok in the end,” said Mo Farah afterwards. “Now all I’m thinking about is having a good rest and spending time with my family.