At the Commonwealth Games, it had been suggested that English athlete Jo Pavey had produced one her finest ever track displays at the age of 40 by winning a bronze medal in the ladies 5,000 metres final. On the first night of the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, she managed to surpass that achievement by claiming a gold medal in the 10,000 metres final.
Pavey becomes the oldest ever woman athlete to claim a gold medal at these championships and it is also her first track gold at any major competition after many years of trying and coming close on several occasions.
To be honest, it was not the best quality field ever assembled for a10,000 metres final, but you can only beat the opposition on the day and Pavey’s racing tactics were deployed to maximum effect. For the majority of the event, the pace of each lap was fairly standard with routine laps of 78 seconds with not much happening.
Pavey was content to race in the middle of the pack while covering any potential surges at the front, which eventually failed to materialise. With six laps remaining, the pace had marginally increased but there were still far too many athletes in contention, some with decent finishing speed.
With just three laps to race, there was a more significant injection of pace with Pavey seemingly able to cover the move but not with her usual fluid style. Yet as the leaders approached the bell, the Devonshire athlete decided to assume the lead and make her move for the gold medal.
French athlete Clemence Calvin who is 16 years younger than Pavey was able to respond and appeared to be travelling ominously well as she tracked the English runner, yet Pavey was not to be denied as she surged again with 200 metres to the finishing line. This seemed to surprise Calvin as she suddenly seemed vulnerable with a vital gap appearing between the two runners.
The gap proved decisive as the popular English athlete extended her lead in the home straight to win in the moderate time of 32 minutes and 22 seconds. Yet the time was immaterial as the 40 year had clinched her gold medal via her tactical brain and a significant degree of effort.
At the end of the race, Pavey claimed that she had been tired and that it had been ‘a long way’ to run. Of course 10,000 metres is a long distance but after racing at the Commonwealth Games, it was no surprise that she felt rather tired.
Pavey now has plans to race the 5,000 metres at these games but whatever happens, she has now written herself into athletics folklore with a combination of determination and providing an example to all athletes in the means to achieve longevity in the sport. Hopefully her legacy will not be wasted on the promising young runners of today.