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A Look at Cosimo Caliandro, Surprise Winner of 3000 at Europeans
By Alberto Zorzi
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BIRMINGHAM (03-Mar-2007) -- When he crossed the finish line with his arms raised up, almost everybody in the National Indoor Arena asked: "Who's he?"

Italy's Cosimo Caliandro was a stunning surprise winner yesterday at the 29th European Indoor Championships, taking the gold medal in the 3000m ahead of pre-race favourites Bob Tahri, Jesus Jesus España, Halil Akkas, Mo Farah, Alistair Cragg, and Gunther Wedlinger.

Who actually is Cosimo Caliandro? "I felt like a bull," he said immediately after the race. He was a "bull" also in 2001, when in Grosseto he got the European junior title in the 1500m.  He won with the same tactics in Birmingham, with a strong final.  In the NIA he ran the last km in 2:26.1, capped by a 26.5 last lap.  "I'm in perfect shape, I knew that I could have run really fast, but not so fast," he admitted. "I did not expect to win.  It's a dream."

After his 2001 victory, a lot was expected of him.  Many saw him as the new Gennaro Di Napoli, the Italian miler who was a double indoor world champion in 3000m in 1993 and 1995.  But he struggled for years.  On "his race," the 1500m, he was not able to break 3:40.  In 2003 he did not make the final at the under-23 European Championships.  He stopped in the heats also in the previous edition of European Indoor Championships two years ago in the same event, the 3000m, which he won yesterday.

He had many muscular troubles in last years, because of a malocclusion of his teeth [Editor's Note: Teeth?]. "When training hard I had an unsensitive leg," he said. "I have to thank very much the osteopath who solved my problem and also my coach Stefano Cecchini, who always had faith in me," he continued. The first race of the "new" Caliandro was strangely a pacing work at Firenze Marathon, last November. He paced until halfway. He had never run so long, but clocked a solid 1:03:50 with no apparent effort.

Two months later, at the beginning of January, he dominated the Corsa di Miguel 10 km, and on February 4, in his first indoor race of 2007 he was 5th in Stuttgart at 3000m with a PB 7:48.88.  He then won the Italian title on the short course at cross country championships.  During these months he always trained in Ostia, at the headquarters of his club, Fiamme Gialle. "Some days ago I ran 5000m, 500m running fast and 500m slowing, I closed with 13:47. With works like this it's natural to run fast."

Caliandro is 24 (in exactly a week, on March 11, he turns 25). At just 17 he became father, when his wife Graziella gave birth to Damiano.  Eight months ago his second son Cristian was born. "This gold medal is for them, I has been out of home for more than last two months for training," he continued. He ran the final with an image of Padre ("Father") Pio, a very known Italian priest, behind the bib. Graziella gave it to him in 2001, before European junior gold. "I'm very religious, I felt that it was the moment to do it again and I was right."

He was right. The gold medal shows it.

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