Manuel Olmedo won men’s 1500m gold for Spain in the Palais Omnisports this afternoon with a calculated piece of middle distance running and a classy sprint that was took him past long-time race leader Kemal Koyuncu.
The Turk had made it an honest race and when Olmedo took the tape the clock stopped at 3:41.03, the Spanish champion’s quickest time of the season and a welcome victory after his disappointing bronze on home soil in Barcelona last summer.
Koyuncu was rewarded for his bravery with a national record of 3:41.18 and the silver medal, while Bartosz Nowicki squeezed past Germany’s Carsten Schlangen to take bronze in 3:41.48, Poland’s first medal at this event since Miroslaw Zerkowski won bronze in 1981.
“I dreamt about this medal,” said Olmedo. “Finally, I have it. In 2010, I was only third and now I got the gold.”
Olmedo’s victory brings the title back into Spanish hands for the first time since Juan Carlos Higuero won in Birmingham 2007. Diego Ruíz took silver in Turin and those two joined Olmedo on the start line.
With three Spaniards in the final it was thought they would control the race. But Koyuncu never gave them a chance. The 26-year-old had no form to speak of at all before these championships but now in the final he wasn’t going to waste the opportunity.
He shot to the front from the bell and immediately stretched the field into a long line with Nowicki, Jakub Holusa and Schlangen on his heels, followed closely by the three Spaniards.
They passed 800m in 1:58.78 and, as his teammates faded, Olmedo moved smoothly into contention, drifting beyond Schlangen. With three to go Koyuncu raised the tempo again, and then again with 400m left.
He led the four leaders as they passed the bell but Olmedo loomed ominously. He attacked with 100m to go and the two sprinted stride for stride into the straight before the Spaniard pulled away to win with two metres to spare.
“The race went almost perfectly fir me,” he said. “I followed my planned tactics exactly. Of course, the last lap is always tough but I was in right position when the bell went and I was feeling confident from that moment
“My plan was to stay away from trouble as much as it was possible to avoid crashes and injuries.”
Behind them, Nowicki won the duel for bronze with Schlangen who just failed to take Germany’s first medal at this event since Jens Peter Herold in 1990.
“I expected to finish between fourth and sixth, so this medal is a huge surprise for me,” said Nowicki. “This year my life changed totally. I have a new coach, a new training partner, new life.”
Spain have now won this title six times in the championships’ history, while the unfancied Koyuncu won the first ever by a Turkish man, only the second ever for his nation following Alemitu Bekele’s 3000m victory in Turin.