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Grovdal completes gold quest at Roma 2024

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  • Grovdal completes gold quest at Roma 2024

Fourteen years after her first attempt, Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal finally got the European Athletics Championships gold medal she craved at Roma 2024.

The Norwegian, ninth over 5000m in Barcelona 2010, has been on a gold medal quest ever since. She took bronze over 10,000m in Amsterdam 2016 and again in the 3000m steeplechase in Berlin 2018.

Then on Friday (7) she came closest yet, winning silver in the women’s 5000m, after being outsprinted by Italy’s Nadia Battocletti. But on the streets of the Eternal City, she made Sunday’s half marathon her own. 

Melly poses the biggest threat

Kenyan-born Romanian Joan Chelimo Melly, who was making her debut for her adopted country, was always likely to pose a big threat. With a personal best of 1:05:04 and a fifth place finish in the London Marathon, she had the requisite strength and speed. So, it was it was no surprise when Grovdal and Melly found themselves leading from the start.

They stayed at the head of the pack through to 15km with Britain’s Calli Hauger-Thackery and Melly’s Romanian team-mate Delvine Meringor the only athletes capable of matching them. But soon after, the two favourites broke clear and then at around 17km after one hour of running, Grovdal made a move and Melly could not respond. 

Grovdal made several glances back, nervously checking on the opposition as the prospect of gold suddenly became a realistic possibility. She lengthened her stride as the neared the Stadio Olimpico and savoured the closing moments as she entered the stadium and drove to the line in a championship record of 1:08:09.

Melly looked in some distress as she covered the final 400m in the Stadio Olimpico, but had enough in hand to win silver in 1:08:55, holding off Hauger-Thackery, who closed to within three seconds to win bronze. Meringor was fourth, a further 27 seconds behind.

Grovdal: "This was my second chance"

“My main focus was the 5000m so I was trying to take the gold,” said Grovdal. “This half marathon was like my second chance but I felt good and I really was going for that gold. Actually, my plan was just to stay behind and to stay in the pack and maybe to do it inside of the track.

“But with the 3km to go, I saw that the girls were getting tired so it was good and I could go to the front. My shape is good, I saw that already on the 5k and I have had a very good training too.”

Great Britain took the team title with Hauger-Thackery supported by Abbie Donnelly (6th, 1:09:57) and Clara Evans (9th, 1:10:06). Germany won silver thanks to Melat Kejeta (5th, 1:09.42), Domenika Mayer (11th, 1:10:49) and Esther Pfeiffer (18th, 1:11:28). 

And Spain grabbed the bronze by just a single second from France with expert packing from Laura Luengo, Esther Navarrete and Fatima Azzahraa Ouhaddou Nafie, who were 12th, 13th and 14th in 1:10:54, 1:11:08 and 1:11:14 respectively. 

Chris Broadbent for European Athletics

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