CULLEN LEADS 3000M QUALIFYING AT EUROPEAN INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
By David Monti
March 7, 2009
(c) 2009 Race Results weekly, all rights reserved
TORINO (07-Mar) -- Ireland's Mary Cullen led all qualifiers in the
women's 3000m as the morning session of the second day of the 30th
European Indoor Championships concluded at the Oval Lingotto here.
Running in the second heat, Cullen followed the strong opening pace set
by Portugal's Jessica Augusto who led the field single file through
1000m in 2:58.1. Cullen stayed behind Augusto, until taking the lead
at 2000m (5:59.5) to break the race open. Only Russia's Yulia
Zarudneva was able to stay close.
"The last 'K' I started moving," said Cullen who lives and trains in
the United States in Providence, R.I. She added: "I felt pretty within
myself; I just wanted to be sure."
Cullen scampered to an easy win, slowing markedly in the final 100m to
save energy. She crossed the line in 8:55.01, with the Russian
Zarudneva about half a second behind. Italy's Silvia Weissteiner and
Augusto, who joined Cullen in her break at 2000m, finished third, and
fourth, respectively. They locked up the final two guaranteed
qualifying spots for Sunday's Final.
Is Cullen already thinking about a medal? No Irish woman has won a
gold or silver medal in the history of these championships in any
discipline. "I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't," said Cullen. "Ray
(Treacy, her coach) and myself have talked about it. That's what we
came here to do, so I'm going to give it a go tomorrow."
To get to the top of the medal stand, Cullen will have to beat Europe's
fastest 3000m runner this indoor season, Russia's Anna Alminova, who
finished third in the first heat. Alminova, who has to run the 1500m
final this afternoon, did her best to conserve energy and was never in
the lead throughout her race. When Portugal's Sara Moreira picked up
the pace at 1800m, Alminova simply followed and allowed Moreira,
Turkey's Almitu Bekele, and Spain's Nuria Fernández to clear the path
for her. In a last lap surge, Bekele won the heat in 8:57.94, with
Fernández second in 8:58.02, and Alminova just 1/100th of a second
behind. Moreira finished fourth.
"I am tired a little bit, of course," said Alminova who is the favorite
to win this afternoon's 1500m. "But, I hope I have enough power to
compete (in the 1500m)."
Poland's Lidia Chojecka, who won both the 1500m and 3000m at the last
edition of these championships, the only woman to ever achieve that,
ended multiple title defense when she stepped off of the track in the
second heat after just one lap.
These championships continue this afternoon with the first round of the
men's 1500m, the men's and women's 800m semi-finals, the men's 3000m
final, and the women's 1500m final.