Antje Moldner-Schmidt had predicted tears when she stood with the 3000m steeplechase gold medal around her neck – her finest achievement in a career punctuated in 2010 by treatment for lymph gland cancer. And as the German anthem sounded out, those tears duly arrived.
The 30-year-old German, who missed almost two seasons before returning to take European bronze in Helsinki 2012, had returned to the top of the podium five years after winning the European Athletics Team Championships, and it felt, in her own phrase, “awesome.”
“This is unbelievable!,” she said. “The crowd here is fantastic, their applause was so beautiful for me, it meant so much to me. But at the same time it was sometimes just too much for me, it kind of overcharged me. The medal ceremony will be very emotional for me, with tears, I already know it.”
Moldner-Schmidt, who was born in Potsdam-Babelsberg, began her career as a 1500m runner, winning bronze at the 2005 European Athletics U23 Championships, but changed events in 2008, going on to run in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she failed to qualify from her heat.
Her European Athletics Team Championships win in 9:32.65 came a year later, and she finished ninth in the final at the IAAF World Championships later that summer, setting a national record of 9:18.54.
All seemed set for her career – until the news that she had a medical problem.
Moldner-Schmidt was not favourite to win here, given the presence in the final of the two fastest women in Europe this year, Charlotta Fougberg of Sweden and Finland’s Sandra Eriksson.
In a swift race, the German led at the 2000m point before the pace was taken up by Fougberg. But after the Swede had led into the final straight, Moldner-Schmidt, having attacked the final water jump, moved up in the outside lane and the two women arrived at the final barrier together.
It proved decisive. As the slighter figure of the Swede stumbled on her landing, her German opponent remained on course and finished two metres clear in a season’s best time of 9:29.43.
“In previous races, at the last water jump, I would slow down a little bit,” Moldner-Schmidt said. “But in this race, I really took this obstacle aggressively. And I believe this was the key to my success.
“I was hoping to win a medal. But there were two girls who have gone under 9:30 this year - so gold did not look very probable to me. The pace was high and at the end of the race I felt that I was getting tired. I tried to stay with the leading girls, I tried to keep contact but as the race was so fast I always thought 'Oh, oh!'."
Just as she had in 2010, however, Moldner-Schmidt prevailed.