Germany’s Jan Fitschen sensationally wins 10,000 m final
Four years after Dieter Baumann had won a silver medal in the 10,000 m at the European Championships in Munich another German runner provided a sensation at these continental championships: 29-year-old Jan Fitschen won the gold medal in Gothenburg. After 28:10.94 minutes and a personal best he sprinted across the finish line. And this victory could by all means be the biggest surprise of the whole European Championships.
Jan Fitschen achieved something in Gothenburg what even his former idol was never capable of. The 5,000 m Olympic Champion from 1992 had never been European Champion at the longest track distance. As in Munich he had before taken the silver medal at the European Championships in Budapest 1998. This unexpected triumph of Jan Fitschen wakes memories of Baumann’s golden race in Barcelona 14 years ago. “With 200 metres to go I knew that I was able to win the race,“ said Jan Fitschen, who passed the leading Spaniard José Manuel Martínez on the home stretch. He then finished second in 28:12.06. „Just before the finish I looked back on the track, then looked to the video wall, raised my arms and thought: that can’t be true.“
32 years after Manfred Kuschmann had been European Champion in 1974 in the dress of the German Democratic Republic, Germany has again a European Champion at this distance. „It was exactly my race, not too fast and not too slow. I knew that I would have a good chance in the final sprint in that sort of race. But I never dreamt about winning a gold medal,“ said Jan Fitschen, who was running bravely against the clear pre-race favourites from Spain and the European Cross Country Champion Sergey Lebid (Ucraine). For a long time it looked like a fourth place, but in the last lap Jan Fitschen passed everybody: Swiss Christian Belz, who came in fourth in 28:16,93 minutes as well as Spanish Juan Carlos de la Ossa (third in 28:13,73) and José Manuel Martinez. „I was able to save some energy by always staying a bit behind the leaders and running in the middle of the field,“ said Jan Fitschen. „Then I felt that I slowly make my way to the front.“
„If you would have told me before that Jan would be the winner here I would have thought you are mad,“ said Fitschen’s coach Tono Kirschbaum, who had also been coaching middle distance runner Rüdiger Stenzel in the 90ies. „I became more and more optimistic from lap to lap. At the end I nearly collapsed on the stands.“ An eighth place „would have been good as well“ the coach said. In winter Jan Fitschen had dismissed the world indoor championships in favor of preparing for Gothenburg. „There were some critics afterwards, but it was the right decision,“ said Kirschbaum. In a couple of high altitude training camps Jan Fitschen had prepared for the European Champs. „It was just his fourth 10,000 metres race in his career – we thought he would have better chances compared to the 5,000 metres race,“ said Tono Kirschbaum.
Jan Fitschen had to withdraw unintendedly from an indoor world championship before. And Dieter Baumann played a role on this occasion. In 2001 Baumann had been banned for doping internationally but not domestically. At the German Championships Fitschen and Baumann were competing against each other. According to the rules the IAAF then banned his competitiors too. Bitterly dissapointed Jan Fitschen had to watch the 3,000m race from the stands. It would have been his first big international competition. Now, after his biggest success in Gothenburg he said: „I am not the new Dieter Baumann of Germany, no, I am the new Jan Fitschen of Germany!“
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