Events & Meetings

Swedish trio eye gold in Zurich


It is 20 years since the golden generation of Swedish athletes Carolina Klüft, Christian Olsson and Stefan Holm held sway.

Suddenly last weekend in Braunschweig it looked as though a new trio of stars is emerging who might well dominate the headlines at this summer’s European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

Abeba Aregawi is already a known quantity after her world championship exploits in Moscow last season. Now she has company in Meraf Bahta and Charlotta Fougberg.

In the five years of its existence, the European Athletics Team Championships has only seen two Swedish individual winners, Mustaf Mohammed in 2009 and Emma Green in 2011.

But in Germany they suddenly enjoyed the luxury of three victories all in one weekend and all of them came in the middle distances.

Bahta, 25, has emerged this season as a definite medal hope for the Scandinavian country over 5000m. Already second fastest over the distance in Europe with a national record 14:59.49, she showed her mettle against Olympic 1500m silver medallist Gamze Bulut of Türkiye.

In a tactical slow race that Bulut was expected to win because of her 1500m speed, Bahta upset the predictions by sweeping past the Turkish athlete on the last lap. “It was slow but it felt good,” said Bahta later.

But as the rankings will show, Bahta is also a strong 1500m runner. All of which gives her and the Swedish federation a bit of a headache. Which event to choose come Zurich?

“We’ll have to see,” was Bahta’s response when she was asked which event she was thinking of running. “I have not decided yet. But I do enjoy running 1500m.”

For its part the federation seems determined to give Bahta free rein as to which event she chooses. Swedish team captain Karin Torneklint commented: “Meraf must decide for herself what she wants to run,” before adding with some relish, “A one-two in the 1500m would not be bad either.”

Fougberg, 29, has also shown she is in line for gold in Switzerland. After setting a new Swedish record in the steeplechase in the end of May, she arrived in Braunschweig as second fastest in Europe.

After biding her time for two kilometres, the Gothenburg athlete put her foot down and cruised through the final kilometre in a spritely 3:08.7. She has the confidence to back up her performances and is not afraid to state her case.

“I think I’ll win gold,” she said looking forward to Zurich. “And if I say I’m going to do something I normally do it. If you don’t believe you’ll win gold then you won’t.”

Apart from her record of 9:34.61, Fougberg has set three other lifetime bests this summer in the 1500m, 3000m and 10km. “I think I can run about 9:25,” she forecast for the steeplechase.

In Braunschweig she had the European bronze medallist, Antje Moldner-Schmidt of Germany, for company as they approached the bell. But by the time they crossed the line she had opened up a gap of over four seconds.

“Unbelievable,” commented Fougberg. Five wins out of five races. This bodes well for Zurich. I’m after a medal.”

The good times are rolling for Sweden.

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