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Struggling, but with a second chance: Klosterhalfen takes a 10,000 meter run-up to the EM dream

Konstanze Klosterhalfen leaves the World Championships disappointed, and she also struggles with her run over 10,000 meters at the European Championships. She can hardly blame herself, but the expectations are huge. The 25-year-old still has a chance for a medal. If she wins this, there will not be joyful jubilation everywhere.

When the new European champion Yasemin Can from Turkey started about two thirds into the race, Konstanze Klosterhalfen’s dreams of a medal at the title fights in Munich’s Olympic Stadium were shattered. “In front of the home crowd you picture it a little differently,” says the 25-year-old after the 10,000 meter race. “I had two goals today: to run further up the front and then get a good time, but that wasn’t possible today.”

It sounds like a big disappointment for the German top runner. She runs just three and a half seconds slower than her German record (31:01.71), 31:05.21 minutes are her record. But on this Monday evening this time is only enough for fourth place, for sheet metal, the unloved place next to the podium. “I think I still showed a strong race and gave everything that was in me,” she adds, putting her self-criticism into perspective.

It’s a tough race, a relentless one, which starts late in the evening as the last competition on this first day of the European Championships for track and field athletes. Can (30:32.57) finally blasted the lead group, which already consisted of only four runners, with her solo run to the title. No one can keep up, not the defending champion Lonah Salpeter from Israel, who finished third, not the silver medalist Eilish McColgan from Great Britain, who recently won the Commonwealth Games and who continues a family tradition, because her mother was Liz World champion and Olympic silver medalist over this distance. It remains the bitter fourth place for Klosterhalfen, the second German starter, Alina Reh, almost has to drop out in between, fights her way through and still finishes eighth in 32:14.02 minutes.

Dream of 30:30 minutes

Klosterhalfen is at odds with himself, mainly because she and her coaching team had expected a “significantly faster time”. “30:30 to 30:40 minutes that that’s possible,” they had hoped, and above all: “I thought that I could keep up longer and that it wouldn’t be that difficult to get out of the back, but if you pull the others first sees and knows the medal is gone, then that’s hard.”

She is dissatisfied with herself, but at the same time cannot blame herself. The woman, who starts for Bayer Leverkusen but has been training with Pete Julian in the USA since 2018, would have had to run such a time for a medal that she has never achieved. But that never bothered her in the years before, she just pulverized best times, collected records like other Panini pictures. The German record over 10,000 meters dates from February 27, 2021 – it was her first start over this distance.

Skepticism always resonates with their successes. It is said that she wears her body for the sport. At 1.74 meters tall, she weighs just 48 kilograms, she is extremely thin, too thin, critics who suspect her anorexia sense. Especially against the background that she moved her training location to the USA in 2018 and has been training in the environment of the former Nike Oregon Project ever since, her weight can be discussed excellently. Because the former US running talent Mary Cain has accused the head of the running Mecca in Eugene, Alberto Salazar, in the “New York Times”. She was “physically and mentally abused” by the coach and systematically urged to lose weight, Cain had denounced. The consequences: Her period failed to appear for three years, and she suffered five broken bones. This talk about her weight, as Klosterhalfen emphasized to the “General-Anzeiger” before the World Cup, has been around since she’s been doing competitive sports, “because I’ve always been tall and slim. But if you don’t eat enough, you would have “I don’t have the energy to exercise at such a high level or to recover quickly from a high level of exertion. That wouldn’t work.”

Doping doubts are always present

But their training location in the USA is also a point of attack, because Salazar has been convicted and banned for doping. Nike dissolved the project in October 2019, but Klosterhalfen continues to train with Julian, who was once assistant to starting coach Salazar. The subject of doping is similar to her weight, like a shadow on her fabulous times. The German Athletics Association has repeatedly defended her: “Despite intensive checks, there were no complaints and she rejects any unauthorized method.” But it is a well-known phenomenon that doubts, once sown, always stick somewhere.

That evening in Munich, she gave these doubts no new food. She ran a good time, but not an outstanding one, no record, no medal. The atmosphere around her is relaxed and positive, even when she is at odds. But everything is completely different than three weeks ago in Eugene at the World Championships. Bitter helplessness prevailed there at Klosterhalfen. She had renounced the 10,000 meters, but was then clearly eliminated in the preliminary heat over 5,000 meters, about 17 seconds were missing for her entry into the final. “We now have to find out what it was. At the moment I can’t explain it,” she said. Despite a recent corona infection, because of which she did not know where she was, as she had explained in advance. It was a brutal heat race in the USA, but the 25-year-old trains there, knows the conditions, the World Cup was her “home game”. “But I haven’t often felt like I do in a race.”

She dares the double start

In Munich everything is different now: a mild summer evening with quite a gusty fresh wind, it’s twice the distance and therefore a direct final. The 10,000 meter runners are not chased through a heat. But Klosterhalfen is not happy again. Unlike in Eugene, she still has a chance to please herself. Because over 5000 meters she wants to know it again. Unlike the World Championships, the focus in Munich is directly on the medals, there is no exhausting pre-run. “Maybe the 5,000 meters are more than the 10,000 meters at the moment. I’ve never run a double start, so I’m curious how it feels,” says the German record holder over 2,000 meters, 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. She has little time to recover even without a lead, the race is already scheduled for Thursday (9:25 p.m.).

Klosterhalfen and her team trained especially for the double start: “We did a harder job after Corona. A workout every second day, that worked out quite well from the regeneration,” she explains. “Actually, I can regenerate quite well because my endurance values ​​are quite good, but then there is something else in the race, so I’m excited that it will work.” A medal could be in there for the 25-year-old, who came third in the 2019 World Championships over this distance, she is the second fastest of the registered starters. Maybe then she can satisfy herself, get a medal at the ceremony on the stage in front of the Olympic lake outside the stadium. 10,000 meters is a long run for happiness, but not an impossible one. The only problem is that if it is successful, the doubters will again have cause for criticism.

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