By David Monti.
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

March 5, 2011

PARIS -- It was a very close battle, but Britain's Mo Farah managed to fend off a serious challenge by Azerbaijan's Hayle Ibrahimov and retain the European Indoor Championships 3000-meter title he earned in Torino in 2009.  Farah's title brought Britain their first gold medal of these championships.

Farah, who has been coached by three-time ING New York City Marathon champion Alberto Salazar since the beginning of the year, led the tactical final from the fifth of 15 laps, closely shadowed by the 21 year-old Ibrahimov, last summer's European Championships 5000-meter bronze medallist.  Farah knew that Ibrahimov would not be willing to lead, and accepted that he would have to win the race from the front.

"Ibrahimov wasn't going to do any work at all," Farah told a clutch of reporters after the race.  "He was there, just following me."  He continued: "You know, if you want that medal you have to work for it.  He wasn't going to do any work at all."

Farah went through 2000 meters in 5:26.58, with Ibrahimov, Turkey's Halil Akkas, Britain's Andy Baddeley, and Portugal's Rui Silva in single file behind him.  He began to heat up the pace with each remaining lap, until only Ibrahimov was still in contention for the win.  Farah did a gut check and felt confident that he was ready for a hard final lap.

"I know obviously from experience in the past to have something left right at the end, so I wasn't going to go full-out and let him pass me in any way," Farah intoned.  "I think he tried to come past me on the last lap when we hit the bell.  I was just like, 'no.'"

With 120 meters to go, Ibrahimov tried to get around Farah again, but the reigning European champion at both 5000-meters and 10,000-meters hit the accelerator and pulled clear of his rival in the last 50 meters.  Looking left then right over his shoulders, Farah pushed all the way through the line, clocking 7:53-flat to Ibrahimov's 7:53.32.  Akkas narrowly beat Baddeley to get the bronze, 7:54.19 to 7:54.49.  Spain's Jesus España, a medal favorite who ran off of the pace most of the race, finished fifth.

"I just made sure I had something left at the end," Farah said.

Farah credited Salazar's flexible and innovative approach to coaching in helping him achieve the additional strength he has acquired this season.  He was clearly energized to be training in a new environment in Portland, Ore., with new training partner, Americans Galen Rupp.

"Alberto is not afraid to try anything," he said.  "He's one of those athletes... who wasn't afraid to try anything.  You read about these guys (doing) 60, 70 miles (per week), and he was doing 200 miles.  Whatever way you can do it, on the bike, on the running machine, anything.  I think as an athlete he can give you that extra little bit, either mentally or physically."

After the race Farah surprised reporters by announcing that his next event would be the NYC Half-Marathon on Sunday, March 20.  It will be the longest race of the 27 year-old's career, and he'll be running against international stars like ING New York City Marathon champions Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia, Marilson Gomes Dos Santos of Brazil, and Meb Keflezighi of the United States, amongst others.

"New York Half-Marathon!" Farah blurted when a reporter asked him what was next for his career.  He paused and said,  "That's a bit of a jump, isn't it?"

  *   *   *   *   *

In other middle distance action today, Russia's 21 year-old Yelena Arzhakova won the 1500m title in a painfully slow 4:13.78, her first ever victory in an international championships at the senior level.  She upset Spain's Nuria Fernández, the reigning European 1500-meter champion who had to settle for silver.  The bronze medal went to Arzhakova's Russian teammate, Yekaterina Martynova.

"I really did not expect to win this race," Arzhakova told EAA interviewers.  "I do not know what was in my mind, I was just running as crazy and I had much luck."

Jenny Meadows led all women in the 800-meter semi-finals, clocking 2:00.65.  The 2009 IAAF World Championships bronze medallist has never earned a medal in the European Indoor Championships, but is definitely the favorite for gold tomorrow.  She reminded reporters that she has never lost an indoor 800-meter race.

"We've seen what the others are capable of, so it's not going to be easy tomorrow," said Meadows before hurrying off to the recovery room.  "I've been undefeated so far over 800, indoors, so I just wanted to get the victory.  Let's see what tomorrow brings."

Meadows's main rivals, Russia's Yevgeniya Zinurova and Yulia Rusanova, also advanced.

In the men's four-lap semi-finals Britain's Andrew Osagie and Spain's Luis Alberto Marco won the two heats, while gold medal favorite Marcin Lewandowski finished second in the second heat.  That race was made by Germany's Robin Schembera who ran aggressively in the final 250 meters.

"Every time I run I'm aggressive," said Schembera in English.  Of tomorrow's final he said: "I, for myself, I hope that this will be a very fast race, quick last 200 meters."

Finally, in the men's 1500-meter qualifying most of the favorites advanced in predictably slow races.  Germany's Carsten Schlangen won the third of three heats, and the 2010 European Championships silver medallist at 1500-meters is hoping for another medal tomorrow.

"We tried to push the pace, but was in a bad position inside," Schlangen said of his heat in which he finished in a pedestrian 3:47.06.  He added: "The final is always something different.  You have to have full speed at the finish."


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