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

March 4, 2011

PARIS -- Most of the favorites advanced in the middle distance events contested here on the first day of the 31st European Indoor Championships, but there was one big surprise.

Portugal's Sara Moreira, who won the silver medal over 3000-meters at these championships in Torino in 2009, finished fourth in her heat and advanced to the final on time, setting a personal best.  Ironically, Moreira was running in the 1500-meters, the event in which her federation, the Federaçao Portuguesa de Atletismo, entered her by mistake.  Once the error was discovered, the European Athletics Association refused to change it in accordance with championships rules.  That led to the resignation of federation president, Fernando Mota.

"I wanted to run the 3000-meters but my federation entered me incorrectly in this event," said the clearly unhappy Moreira who ran 4:10.65 in the third and final heat.

Leading all qualifiers in that discipline was Russia's Yekaterina Martynova, who clocked 4:09.93 to win the third heat.  Also advancing were Spain's Nuria Fernández, last summer's European Championships 1500m gold medallist; Poland's Sylwia Ejdys and Renata Plis; Spain's Isabel Macias; Belgium's Lindsey De Grande; Russia's Yelena Arzhakova; and Ukraine's Anzhela Shevchenko.

Plis said that the presence of her teammate Ejdys would have no impact on her strategy in tomorrow's final.  She resented a reporter's question which implied that she and Ejdys would work together in the race.

"No, no, no," she said sternly in halting English.  "We fight."

France's Fanjanteino Félix and Britain's Hannah England were amongst the better athletes who were eliminated from the group of 23 who started today.  England, who is engaged to steeplechaser Luke Gunn, was frustrated.

"I don't know what happened," she said.  "Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish."

Although Britain was unable to put a woman in the 1500-meter final, their 800m squad had much better luck.  On the women's side, Jenny Meadows won the fourth and final heat, while Marilyn Okoro finished third in the first, advancing both athletes to tomorrow's semi-finals.

"Luckily, I managed to watch the first three heats," explained Meadows, the 2009 world championships bronze medallist, wearing her trademark pink-framed sunglasses.  "The plan was to run 2:03 and that's what happened (2:02.96)."

The Russians showed their usual strength in the four-lap event.  Tatyana Paliyenko (heat 1), Yevgeniya Zinurova (heat 2) and Yulia Rusanova (heat three) were all winners.  Zinurova, sixth at last year's IAAF World Indoor Championships, ran the fastest time of the day, clocking 2:01.07.

On the men's side, Britain's Andrew Osagie (second, heat 4) and Joe Thomas (second, heat 5), both advanced to the semis.  Osagie was winning his heat by a comfortable margin, but slowed his pace in the final 50 meters as he watched the runners behind him on the arena's big screen monitor.  He was passed by Ukraine's Oleksandr Osmolovych, and nearly caught by two other athletes.  In a photo finish, he crossed the finish line just 1/100th of a second ahead of third place finisher Anis Ananenka of Belarus.

"I'm happy to get through," said Osagie looking slightly embarrassed.  He added, perhaps joking: "Maximum energy savings; that's what it's all about."

Leading all qualifiers was the reigning European 800-meter champion, Marcin Lewandowski of Poland, who won the first heat in 1:48.91.  Interestingly, Lewandowski hadn't even planned to run in these championships, he said, but the endurance training he had been doing in Kenya produced strong track times this indoor season without any speed training.  He set indoor personal bests at 600m (1:16.32), 1000m (2:19.21) and 1500m (3:40.24) and realized that he was fit enough to enter these championships.

"This is nothing special for me," said Lewandowski, who is fluent in English.  "I never train for indoor.  I didn't even make a hard session for that, a speed session or something like that.  Right now I'm focused mainly on mileage.  So, totally without any special preparation I had one of the best results in Europe, so after that I decided, why not?  I can try."

Lewandowski's teammate, Adam Kszczot, the bronze medallist from Barcelona last summer, moved from third to first in the final 100 meters of heat 3 by running wide on the outside and finishing in lane three.  Also advancing to the semis with medal hopes were France's Hamid Oualich, Spain's Luis Alberto Marco and David Bustos, and Germany's Robin Schembera.

Middle and long distance action continues here tomorrow with the first round of the women's 3000-meters, the semi-finals in the 800-meters, the men's 3000-meter final, and the women's 1500-meter final.


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