Pamela Dutkiewicz after taking bronze in the 100m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature London, UK

Dutkiewicz daring to dream after joining the greats in London

Looking up to the greats of your event is one thing, but trying to beat them is quite another. 

Though Germany's Pamela Dutkiewicz didn't quite manage to beat all of them in the 100m hurdles final at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, she came close, and her bronze medal behind gold medallist Sally Pearson of Australia and Dawn Harper Nelson of the USA felt as good as gold. 

The 25-year-old crowned a successful season in the super-competitive final by clocking 12.72 to hold off world record-holder Kendra Harrison by 0.02 to snatch the bronze medal. 

"I cannot believe it. I dreamt about this medal," said Dutkiewicz. "It’s crazy because there were so many big names in the 100m hurdles. I was so focused and I pushed until the final hurdle." 

Living the dream

Since she started to compete in hurdles races, Dutkiewicz has looked up to Pearson, who this year made a successful comeback from injury, winning her second world title six years after her first and on the same track where she won Olympic gold in 2012.

"Since I was a girl I have been admiring Sally Pearson," said Dutkiewicz. "She has been a role model for me. I am happy with her win. It's like I'm in a film. I am glad I caught a moment of complete flow at the fifth hurdle. When I crossed the finish line I thought I had finished fourth. You can only see the athlete in the lane next to you.

"I had a lot of emotions after the race, as I did not really expect to win a medal. I'm grateful that I kept my emotions under control. I hoped to run a clean race and I managed to do that. As I crossed the finish I thought, 'Wow, I am really in the top positions'. Then I saw that I finished third on the screen. It could not have gone better.

"My lap of honour was great. It was like madness. The support of the crowd goes through to your heart. They really appreciate your performance."

First love

Dutkiewicz hails from a sporting family of Polish origin and has been in love with sport of all kinds since she was a child.

Her father Marian Dutkiewicz played football for the Polish U21 team and her mother Brygida won the Polish 800m title in 1984 and had a PB of 2:02.39. Dutkiewicz started in athletics at the age of 10 and tried many disciplines under the guidance of Sigfried Henning and Michael Birbelbach before focusing on the hurdles at the age of 15.

At 16 years of age, Dutkiewicz moved from Kassel to Bochum Wattenscheid to attend a sports boarding school and started training under the guidance of Slawomir Filipowski in 2008.

"The move to Bochum was the best decision in my life because I learnt to become more independent from my family," she said. "But I was putting on weight as I ate everything that was served in the canteen. I started eating inconsistently. For this reason I began working with one of the federation’s nutritionists."

Dutkiewicz made her first breakthrough at national level when she finished third in the 60m hurdles at the 2014 German Indoor Championships in Leipzig in 8.19. She went on to finish fourth at the German Championships in Ulm in 12.95. During the 2015 indoor season she finished second at the national championships in 8.07, qualifiying for the European Indoor Championships, but was sidelined by a serious injury for the rest of the season.

"I felt in the form of my life," she said. "I set the qualifying standard for the European Indoor Championships in Prague but I rolled my ankle awkwardly and tore the ligaments of both my ankles."  

Olympic ambition

Dutkiewicz made her international breakthrough in 2016 when she reached the final at the European Championships in Amsterdam and the semifinal at the Olympic Games in Rio, where she clocked 12.92.

"The Olympic Games were an important learning experience," she said. "I learnt to deal with competing in big international events. The many big international meetings gave me the chance to deal with the pressure. I run alone on the track, but there are a lot of people who support me, including my coach and my medical team."

Dutkiewicz has gained invaluable racing experience this year. After clocking a PB of 7.79 to win the German indoor 60m hurdles title, she went on to earn the European indoor bronze medal in Belgrade.

Outdoors, the 25-year-old Kassel-born hurdler remained unbeaten in eight consecutive races including the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo, the IAAF World Challenge meetings in Hengelo and Ostrava, the European Team Championships in Lille and the German Championships in Erfurt, before finishing seventh in the super-competitive race in Monaco in her final competition before London.

But in London she became a medal contender after finishing second in the semifinal in 12.71 behind Harper Nelson before eventually crowning her season with the bronze medal.

"My boyfriend was in the stadium in London but I told my parents to stay at home because they are so nervous watching me in a stadium," she said. "I believe they were crying at home right when I was competing."

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF