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12th Aug 2018

WATCH: European Championships runner thinks she’s won silver… only the race isn’t over

Dave Hanratty

“It’s a mistake that you wouldn’t see in a schools event.”

Lonah Chemtai Salpeter made headlines on Sunday night in the women’s 5000 metres final at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin.

The Kenyan-born runner, representing Israel, had previously won the 10,000 metres race on Wednesday, claiming a gold medal after completing the race in 31 minutes and 43.29 seconds.

On Sunday, however, Salpeter badly miscalculated with 400 metres left to go.

With the bell sounding out the final lap as Salpeter chased down a possible gold, she suddenly stopped running, believing the race was over and that she had added a silver medal to her collection.

Quickly realising her mistake, she took off again and eventually collapsed over the line, visibly crestfallen.

Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands took the gold medal in the end, as Salpeter managed to cross the line in fourth place. All the more extraordinary is that she still managed a time that would have been the national record for her country.

Unfortunately for Salpeter, however, her mistake proved doubly costly as she was eventually disqualified after the race by the European Athletics officials.

“She knows she blew it,” exclaimed RTÉ commentator Con Murphy.

“She is absolutely devastated. It’s a mistake that you wouldn’t see in a schools event.”

George Hamilton noted his own bemusement at what unfolded.

“I cannot recall anything quite as dramatic as that,” remarked Hamilton.

“She was on the shoulder, and I think she thought she was chasing for the medal, the gold medal, and she had it in her head that that’s what was happening and she thought she’s got silver, and then realised, ‘Oh my goodness, the bell rang!’

“She’s going for gold, she’s just missed gold, except she hasn’t, she hears the bell then. And of course there’s no way back from that,” George concluded.