Where Your Dreams Become Reality
UPSETS CONTINUE AS MAISCH WINS MARATHON GOLD
By David Monti
(c) 2006 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
GÖTEBORG (12-Aug) -- On the heels of Jukka Keskisalo's gold medal for Finland in last night's men's steeplechase, Ulrike Maisch produced another upset performance here to win the first-ever European Championships marathon title by a German.
Running in cold, rainy and cloudy conditions --typical for her native Rostock in the northeastern part of Germany-- the 29 year-old Maisch made up a 46-second deficit on race leader Irina Permitina, passing the Rusian just beyond the 40-K mark, and gliding to victory in Ullevi Stadium in 2:30:01, a personal best.
"No, I didn't expect it at all," Maisch said of her gold medal. "I would be happy for the first eight. I didn't even think about a medal."
It was a stunning upset for Maisch. Although she was eighth in the European Championships in 2002, she came into today's race, her ninth marathon, with a modest personal best time of 2:31:21 set three years ago. Ironically, the Germans had been looking instead to 2002 silver medalist Luminita Zaituc for a medal, but Zaituc stopped suddenly just before the 30-K mark, sick to her stomach, and could not continue.
Permitina, and her teammate Albina Ivanova, were responsible for snapping the race out of its first-half torpor. Fifteen women reached the half-way mark in a sluggish 1:16:44, and runners were constantly clipping and jostling each other because of the slow pace, the narrow dimensions of the course, and an overall hesitancy to lead. Permitina and Ivanova had gently picked up the pace through 25-K, but pressed a bit harder in the next 5 km (17:05) to string out the field. Olivera Jevtic of Serbia, a medal favorite, was right behind the two Russians with another medal favorite, Bruna Genovese of Italy, three seconds further back. Maisch was nowhere to be seen, and wasn't even thinking about victory.
"I felt strong and I started to pass one after the other," she said. "I know when I passed one of the runners, she would not come back."
Permitina kept up her pace, dropping Ivanova and Jevtic, and at 35-K had a seemingly insurmountable lead of 29 seconds. Her stride looked smooth, and at 38 years-old, she appeared destined to become the oldest-ever European women's marathon champion.
But in the 37th kilometer, Permitina began to look over her shoulder. She was slowing, while Maisch had been quietly accelerating. The Russian hit the 40-K mark still in the lead, but Maisch was just three seconds back with Jevtic another six seconds behind the German. In just a few strides Maisch went by Permitina.
"At one point I had a medal," said Maisch of getting into third place. "And at once I was first!"
Permitina tried to shake Jevtic, but she was no match for the tall Serbian who quickly took over sole possession of second place, which she held to the finish line in 2:30:27. Zivile Balciunaite of Lithuania had passed Genovese and was making a noble bid to catch the fading Permitina, but she ran out of time and the Russian held on for the bronze medal in 2:30:53. Balciunaite finished fourth just eight seconds behind. Genovese, who was very sore after the race, was a disappointing fifth in 2:31:15.
This was Maisch's second marathon victory; she had won at Bonn in 2002. Her only notable title prior to today was winning the German half-marathon championships in 2002. But Stephane Franke, a two-time European Championships bronze medalist at 10,000m and now a commentator for EuroSport, said that this race had been perfectly suited to Maisch's strengths.
"She's not fast, but she likes a tough course," said Franke who reminded this reporter that Maisch ran for two years at the University of Texas - El Paso in the 1990's. "She ran the perfect race."
Perfedt, indeed. Maisch ran the first half in 1:16:45 and the second in 1:13:16, a classic negative split.
NOTE: A wonderfully detailed results report for this marathon, including all splits, is at this link:
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