When Samuele Ceccarelli upset Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs to win the Italian 60m title a fortnight ago, most observers wrote it off as an anomaly, if not an outright fluke.
But in the space of 6.48 seconds at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul on Saturday (4) night, the 23-year-old didn’t just back up that result. He ascended to a whole new level, claiming the European indoor 60m crown from Jacobs and spearheading a superb 1-2 for his nation.
Jacobs finished second in 6.50, a season’s best for the 28-year-old, with Sweden’s Henrik Larsson clocking a national record of 6.53 to win bronze, a mere 0.001 ahead of Poland’s Dominik Kopec, who also clocked 6.53 in fourth. Slovakia's Jan Volko was fifth in 6.57.
The victory marks a huge step forward for Ceccarelli, who had a best of 6.72 for 60m before this season, which dated back to 2019. But he enjoyed an indoor campaign of remarkable consistency, hacking his PB down three times before unleashing a 6.47-second European lead to win his semifinal earlier in the evening, then backing it up with 6.48 in the final.
"To become the European champion - that sounds great and I am over the moon because it is the first time in the Italian senior team, my first time competing at such championships, and the first win. So I could not be more happy than this," said Ceccarelli whose championship experience prior to Istanbul only extended to the European Athletics U20 and U23 Championships.
Jacobs, who pulled up lame after crossing the finish-line albeit with silver, said ruefully: "This is not the medal that I wanted, I obviously wanted the gold. My leg wasn't the best today, it was really tough today. My team mate did great. I am the captain of Italian national team and I am satisfied with medals we brought to the team. Now is the end of the indoor season so my focus is on the outdoor."
But disappointed as he was, Jacobs didn't leave the track without some words of praise for his previously little-known compatriot. "He was happy for me and said a few words in the finish. We keep the gold medal at home in Italy so he was happy for me. He is like my big brother," said Ceccarelli.
In the women’s 1500m, Laura Muir did what just about everyone expected her to do – winning with a typically tough, classy display, clocking 4:03.40 ahead of Romania’s Claudia Mihaela Bobocea (4:03.76), Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui (4:04.06) and Spain’s Esther Guerrero (4:04.86).
The three behind Muir all set indoor personal bests, and that was chiefly thanks to the relentless pace laid down by Bobocea, who led through 400m in 64.42, 800m in 2:10.87 and 1200m in 3:16.47. Muir started out near the back, staying out of trouble, but slowly stalked her way to the front by the penultimate lap. With 250 metres to run, she finally pulled the trigger, blasting away from her rivals.
Over the last 50 metres Muir either tied up or eased up – it was hard to tell which – but either way it mattered little, the 29-year-old having built a substantial lead which was more than enough to claim her fifth European indoor gold.
“I put quite some pressure on myself to win another gold, so I am very happy,” said Muir. “Ten years ago, as a junior, I finished last in the final. It is kind of crazy how my career has changed, but I just hope that I can be an example to other athletes. You do not have to be the best in the world when you are a junior, but you just see whatever stage you are at: You can do it.”
To Bobocea, silver – her first major championship medal – felt just as good as gold, the 30-year-old breaking down in tears of joy afterwards.
“I am so happy,” said Bobocea. “I knew that girls from behind will attack so I just continued pushing. I was pushing every lap, but I knew that Laura would attack and I just tried to keep with her, which was not easy.”
Full results here.
Cathal Dennehy for European Athletics