France’s Morhad Amdouni became the first Frenchman ever to win the European Championships 10,000m title, prevailing in a tactical race with a powerful 56-second closing lap.
Amdouni, 30, the European junior champion at 5000m back in 2007, clocked 28:11.22, just a few strides ahead of Belgium’s Bashir Abdi (28:11.76), and Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa (28:12.15).
“You have a magnificent Olympic stadium,” Amdouni told European Athletics interviewers. “Thank you. Today, I am over the moon, so happy. Long live Germany and long live France!”
The medal, France’s first of these championships, was particularly important for the French team given that all three of their decathletes –including reigning champion Kevin Mayer– failed to post a mark in the long jump this morning. Amdouni will also contest the 5000m on Saturday, and is a medal threat in that event, also, with a 13:11.18 personal best.
Predictably, tonight’s race progressed slowly. Through 5000m (14:08.91) the field was content to lope along, posting 68 and 69-second laps. Amdouni ran near the front, and was joined there by Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Özbilen, Spain’s Adel Mechaal, Belgium’s Soufiane Bouchikhi and Bashir Abdi, France’s Florian Carvalho, and Switzerland’s Julien Wanders among others. The field was content to sit behind Özbilen and bide their time.
“I wanted to push,” an exhausted Özbilen told Race Results Weekly. “I can’t kick with the other guys; I’m training for the marathon.”
But Özbilen’s pace was too slow to break up the field, leaving a big, 13-man lead pack intact at the 8000m mark (22:48.02). Nothing changed until Spain’s Mechaal decided to force the pace with three laps to go, running 66.3 seconds through 9200m, then an very honest 63.3 through 9600m. Mechaal, who has 3:34.70 1500m speed, said he actually worried about the last lap.
“I don’t have the confidence in my speed the last 400m,” Mechaal told Race Results Weekly, explaining that he missed seven weeks of training due to a tooth infection and illness. “Maybe I should have waited more.”
With Wanders and Carvalho too far back to contend for the podium, Abdi made his bid for victory on the backstretch, throwing in a big acceleration and breaking up the race. For a marathoner, his speed was surprising, but perhaps not given the accomplishments of one of his regular training partners.
“I got that (speed) from Mo Farah,” Abdi told Race Results Weekly. “Actually, I ran this year the first time a marathon. My endurance was really good. I had the kick today.”
But Amdouni was not impressed. He reacted quickly to Abdi’s move, setting up a thrilling four-man homestretch run. Abdi still led coming out of the final bend, but Amdouni ran him down in the final meters to get the win by two strides.
“I have had many big difficulties, but I did not give up,” Amdouni said. “On the last lap I was very impatient, but now I feel relieved.”
Mechaal, who broke the race open, was crestfallen that he could not hold off Crippa in the last 50 meters. Visibly straining, he finished fourth, the same position as last summer’s IAAF World Championships where he ran the 1500m, instead. Özbilen faded to tenth, while his teammate, defending champion Polat Arikan, failed to finish.
“I would like to thank my wife, my coach and the French team,” Amdouni said. “It is set off now; I will focus on the 5-K.”