News17 Aug 2009

Dominguez – ‘The dream has happened’


Marta Dominguez of Spain crosses the line to win the gold medal in the women's 3000m steeplechase at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (© Getty Images)

Twenty metres from the finish of a thrilling women's 3000m Steeplechase here tonight, Marta Dominguez began smiling. Two hours later, when she put the phone down to the latest, but most probably not the last, Spanish radio station that wanted to interview her back home, her face was still beaming. "The dream," she said. "The dream has happened."

Around her neck was a gold medal, and finally at the age of 33, when time was running out on the career of one of the greatest of all Spanish athletes, came the defining moment of her career.

Twelve months ago, at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Dominguez, a European champion on the track in the 5000m, was in contention for a medal in the Steeplechase when she was tripped with 250m to go. She did not finish the race.

But no repeat this time as she soared away from the rest of the field, including Russia's Olympic champion and World record holder Gulnara Galkina to secure her own place in athletics history as the World champion.

"I have waited a long time for this," she said.

But it is not the end. Now, it is the beginning of what is likely to be the end at the Olympics in London in 2012.

Had she won a medal in Beijing, she might have contemplated retiring. No more. As she looked ahead, she was taken back to her youth for an unexpected foundation that led her to the top of the podium this evening.

"When I was a child, I used to run in the mountains and jump over things there," said Dominguez, who is from Palencia in the North-North West of Spain.

All these years later she could never have imagined that it would bring her the greatest achievement of a career that had left her missing the one global title her experience, her speed - and her smile deserved.

As she pounded down the home straight, she raised her right arm to her head and in a flash whipped off her pink headband, waving it around as she crossed the line. It was quickly replaced by the Spanish flag which she draped so close to her it was fresh skin.

She said: "What has happened here has made up for last year.

"It shows you never give up, you keep training away and I have worked so hard for it. I am so happy about it."

She won in a world-leading time of 9:07.32 from Yuliya Zarudneva, of Russia, in 9:08.39, with Kenya's Milcah Chemos Cheywa third in 9:08.57. They both set personal bests, while Galkina was fourth in 9:11.09.

Her plan now is to carry onto London because the pain of Beijing had followed illness in Sydney in 2000 and injury in Athens in 2004.

Not that she hadn't accumulated a fabulous record of success. Gold in the 5000m at the European Championships in Munich in 2002 and Gothenburg four years later, silver in the 3000m at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham in 2003 and double silver at the World Championships 5000m in Edmonton in 2001 and Paris in 2003.

But global gold had eluded her. When she joined the lead pack with three laps to go her face was steeped in such will and determination that she was the winner a long way out.

A six-time national champion in the 5000m, she has only been a steeplechaser for two seasons.

"I wanted to try it and I am so pleased I have," she said. "I did fear the water barrier but tonight I had real confidence about it."

The pain of Beijing took time to go away - a ghost now exorcised in prolific fashion.

She had been tripped at the Olympics in the final barrier before the water and she reflected: "I did not remember anything about falling. It seemed that I might have been jinxed. But I believed in fate."

After Beijing, she said that perhaps in four years' time she will look back and laugh at what has happened to her.

But she returned from China with the immediate plan: Berlin.

It was a project that worked to perfection because of the way she overcame the anxiety that would have naturally played its part.

But what now?

Having established herself to this level at the World Championships' Steeplechase, she will spend the next few months wondering which road her career will go down - with road being the operative word.

She knows how risky a business the steeplechase can be. Not all nights go with the same perfection as this one.

It means that the Marathon is never far from her focus. Possibly at the next World Championships in Daegu in 2011 and then London.

Earlier in the year she talked about how she would stay at the steeplechase until after Berlin. "To see if I am lucky," she said.

But tonight was not all about luck. It was about sheer guts, putting last year behind her.

She might now think her luck has run out at this event, and it is time to move on again.

But she can do that as a global World Champion at last, and that is something to spend a lifetime smiling about.

Richard Lewis for the IAAF   
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