Cindy Roleder, 26, has risen through the ranks of European athletics to finally reach the peak in Amsterdam where on Thursday evening she claimed her first senior gold medal at a major championships.
Slowly but surely the police constable from Leipzig has moved from under-23 bronze in 2011 to senior bronze in Zurich 2014 and now she is European champion.
The task now is to storm the citadel of American and Jamaican hurdlers, above all at the forthcoming Olympics in Rio: “Before I was just a kid, but now they know my name. The thing is not to hide.”
Ever since the world championships in Beijing last year where she claimed silver against the best in the world, it has been difficult to avoid her name. The last three years have given her the full set of medals, bronze, silver and now gold.
Her performance in the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium was a carbon copy of Beijing. Not the best starter in the world, she steadily gained an unstoppable momentum that carried her across the line in 12.62.
“My start was not a disaster, but I continue to work on it,” she said. “I know there is more in there. Once I get going my speed is good and I go flat out for the rest of the race.”
The plan now is to go to Kienbaum where she will work on her start, “preferably with men because they start faster than me and I like that.”
For a tall woman – 1.78m – Roleder prefers a headwind to prevent her getting too close to the hurdles and in Amsterdam as in Beijing she got her wish with a slight breeze in her face for the final. And once she got going she was irresistible.
The strength she exhibits, she puts down to heptathlon training which she started two years ago: “The switch to heptathlon was an all or nothing decision. I was fed up of watching finals from the stands (she failed to make the final in the London Olympics). It would not suit everyone but it works for me.”
She credits her ability to maintain her speed throughout the race to the strength that heptathlon training gives her. She emphasizes the fact that even though training may not go well in one discipline, she can get a boost from the next one that she is better at: “That way you constantly get a small feeling of success during a competition.”
Nearly 40% of parents of girls report their daughters being inspired to take up a sport after watching professionals in action.
England 6-Russia )