Czech Republic won two gold medals at the Prague 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
The first one, as expected, came from Pavel Maslak in the 400m. The indoor supremo reminded us of his near unmatched ability on the boards once again by powering to a gun-to-tape defence of his title, setting a championship record of 45.29 in the process.
The second one came from Jakub Holusa in the 1500m. The former steeplechaser was on the fringes of the medal discussion prior to the championships and most of the pre-event focus was carried by Maslak who adorned the publicity posters around the Czech capital prior to the championships.
One day after Maslak dominated the 400m final, the decibel levels inside the 02 Arena rose to a near-deafening peak once again as Holusa drew himself back into contention for the 1500m title.
Holusa still had a lot of ground to make up on the last lap as Türkiye’s Ilham Tanui Ozbilen kicked again just before the bell chimed in a game, and a very nearly successful, bid to win the title from the gun. Ozbilen’s eight metre advantage remained largely intact until Holusa crested the final bend, giving chase to the Turk.
Ozbilen could sense the Czech was on a late charge and the long-time leader repeatedly began to glance over his shoulder to check on Holusa’s progress. Roared on by a fervent capacity crowd inside the 02 Arena, Holusa gritted his way past a tiring and hapless Ozbilen in the last five strides to clinch one of the most dramatic and hard fought titles of the championships.
Not particularly renowned for their middle distance heritage, Holusa became the first Czech winner of the European indoor 1500m title in Prague and he was also rewarded with a national indoor record of 3:37.69, winning by a mere 0.06 from Ozbilen.
Holusa’s win is further proof - if any is needed - of how a home crowd can lift an athlete’s performance and the gold medallist fulsomely praised the efforts of his home supporters, including those who had travelled in numbers from his hometown, in his post-race interviews.
“I still cannot believe I found the energy,” said Holusa. “The crowd was pushing me until the very end and it was not possible for me to lose. It is on home soil, it was unexpected and it was in front of my family, friends and supporters from my hometown, Opava. I think there are about 15 people supporting me here.”
Holusa has been on the podium in a global event before. He won a silver medal in the 800m at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul but his gold medal in Prague was an even more prized commodity for the Czech.
“This is the top moment of my whole career. The silver in Istanbul was amazing but this gold is much more important to me,” he said.