Norwegian successfully defends European indoor 1500m title in Istanbul on Friday as British record-holder falls agonisingly short
Neil Gourley went into the 1500m final at the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul on Friday night with new-found stamina, a withering sprint finish and, most importantly, the belief he could beat Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen to the line. Ultimately, though, the Norwegian prevailed, successfully defending his title, after a pulsating race that saw the two men separated by just 28 hundredths of a second at the finish.
This was the archetypal front-runner versus the classic kicker. To add to the drama there was even an unfortunate early-race pile-up.
“It was a good race and a good fight,” said Ingebrigtsen’s whose winning time of 3:32.95 was a championship record.
Gourley was left to rue his lost opportunity. With mixed feelings, he said: “I definitely believed I could win. He is who he is. He’s one of the best ever to do this so it’s always going to be hard to come up against someone like that.”
Gourley’s British team-mate, George Mills, was one of the casualties of the early incident and he was bumped to the floor before rising to complete the race in 11th place. “I’m raging,” he said. “I’d never drop out of a race no matter what happens and I’ll try to get up and fight to the end but obviously after falling you’ve got no chance.”
Ingebrigtsen did not go off at world record pace but he set an honest tempo as he went through 400m in 57.58, 800m in 1:55.47 and 1000m in 2:24.03. After almost getting tangled in the pile-up, Gourley sat in third during the early stages before moving into second place at 900m.
The duo drew away from their rivals and on the last lap it was a two-man race with Ingebrigtsen holding pole position as Gourley – who broke the British record five days earlier in Birmingham – poised to strike.
The tall Scottish runner made his move down the back straight but Ingebrigtsen determinedly held him off and maintained his lead around the final bend. Gourley then tried to kick again coming into the home straight but the Norwegian had a small gap and slightly more strength.
In third, Azzedine Habz of France capped a fine indoor season by making the podium. Jesus Gomez of Spain was fourth with Pietro Arese of Italy fifth.
“He made a good attack and I expected something to come and I responded fairly quickly,” said Ingebrigtsen.
Gourley was left wondering if he should have waited to attack off the final bend, but he explained: “I put myself in the right places but I just didn’t have it today I got beaten by someone who was just better and I’ve just got to take that on the chin and move forward for outdoors.”
Looking back briefly on his World Championships defeat to Jake Wightman last year, Ingebrigtsen added: “I don’t want to get beaten by anyone. It doesn’t matter who it is. I’m always going to try as good as I can to finish first and always put myself in a position to win. Sometimes that doesn’t work out but I’m going to give it my best either way.”
Gourley was of course pleased to make the podium, though. “It was important to win a medal here,” he said. “I hadn’t done that yet. I hadn’t won a major medal so it was important to get that started. We’re not there yet but we’re getting there.”
The Briton will now head back to his altitude base in Flagstaff, Arizona, to continue preparing for the summer season.
Ingebrigtsen is not finished in Istanbul yet, however, and will now defend his second title – the 3000m – and said: “Everything is a challenge but some are easier than others. I feel pretty good and I’ve raced more in a shorter period before. It’s a lot of races but it’s not too many.”
Elsewhere, Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Portugal stamped his class on the men’s triple jump contest as he won by just over a metre with a world leading mark of 17.60m.
In second was Nikolaos Andrikopoulos of Greece with Max Hess of Germany third.
Pichardo said: “The competition was easy. I wish the competition was stronger. There are some good triple jumpers in Europe, which came from abroad, that is also improving the standard.”
The men’s shot put title, meanwhile, went to Zane Weir of Italy with Tomas Stanek of the Czech Republic second and Roman Kokoshko of Ukraine third.
Weir, who was born in South Africa who who has represented Italy since 2020, won by 13 centimetres with 22.06m and said: “The previous season was difficult because of the broken finger but here I am now. I am happy that I am at this level which is higher than usual.”
He said his victory was partly down to the dedication and expertise of his coach, Paolo Dal Soglio, who invited the athlete to live with him and his wife in their house just days after Weir moved to Italy and found himself caught up in the first national lockdown.
» Subscribe to AW magazine here