Ageless mum Pavey makes European history as sprinters advance

Great Britain's Jo Pavey celebrates winning the Women's 10,000m final during day one of the 2014 European Athletics Championships at the Letzigrund Stadium, Zurich.
Great Britain's Jo Pavey celebrates winning the Women's 10,000m final during day one of the 2014 European Athletics Championships at the Letzigrund Stadium, Zurich.
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Jo Pavey, a 40-year-old mother of two, rolled back the years to win the 10,000m in Zurich, becoming the oldest female European champion.

Just 10 days ago, the four-time Olympian produced one of the performances of the Commonwealth Games to secure bronze in the 5,000m.

Pavey, who turns 41 next month, returned to the track at the Stadion Letzigrund on the opening night of the European Championships and went one better than her silver medal from Helsinki two years ago.

Showing no signs of fatigue, she stuck with a breakaway pack and took the lead with a lap to go.

It had looked like Clemence Calvin might catch the Briton, but she kicked on down the home straight to take gold and replace Irina Khabarova – part of Russia’s triumphant 4x100m relay team in 2006 at the age of 40 years and 27 days – as the oldest female European gold medallist.

“I can’t believe it,” said Pavey after crossing the line in 32 minutes 22.39 seconds. “I am just thrilled.

“I was finding it quite a long way, I thought it was the wrong event at one point.”

As if her performance was not remarkable enough, Pavey only gave birth to her daughter 11 months ago, with baby Emily and son Jacob both in Zurich to witness their mother’s moment of glory.

“It was really emotional to have my daughter Emily watch me for the first time,” she said. “We thought she might be scared, but decided to gamble.

“To try for so many years and to finally do it at the age of 40 is funny really. I should have learned how it do it by now.”

The success of Pavey, who is also due to compete in the 5,000m, will no doubt inspire her younger British team-mates – many of whom impressed in the heats, setting up a potentially medal-laden second day today.

As well as Mo Farah going for 10,000m gold, Tiffany Porter has a good chance of taking the 100m hurdles crown after qualifying for the final quickest in a season’s best of 12.63secs.

There are also strong British medal hopes in the men’s and women’s 100m.

Ashleigh Nelson and Desiree Henry both set personal bests in qualifying for the women’s semi-finals, while Asha Philip is in with a good chance of a podium finish.

Great Britain won three of the five men’s 100m heats, with Dwain Chambers and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey book-ending a promising display from James Dasaolu.

The 26-year-old clocked 9.91secs last year and looked capable of going sub-10 in Zurich on Wednesday, easing in at 10.22.

“It was just the heats, you were trying to lose as little energy as possible,” said Dasaolu. “I’m just happy to get through.”

Elsewhere on the opening day, there were no signs of rustiness from Christine Ohuruogu as the reigning 400m world champion eased through the European Championships heats with a season’s best of 51.40.

Having followed Olympic silver at London 2012 by winning the World Championships, the 30-year-old decided to dramatically scale back this year.

Ohuruogu was part of the 
England team that won bronze in the 4x400m relay at the recent Commonwealth Games, yet the heats in Zurich were just her third individual race over 400m in 2014.

Leeds’s James Wilkinson saw his 3,000m steeplechase campaign end but there was better news for Commonwealth silver medallist Laura Weightman, who comfortably progressed to Friday’s 1,500m final.