Host nation go one-two but Webb runs bravely to take 800m third spot, a position matched by relay team
Before these European Indoor Championships, if you had predicted Jamie Webb would beat three World Championship senior outdoor medallists – in world indoor champion Adam Kszczot, double world medallist Amel Tuka and 2017 world champion Pierre Ambroise-Bosse – you would have expected him to finish up as European Indoor champion.
However, despite running a brilliant race and having clearly improved since winning silver in Glasgow two years ago, Webb had to settle for third as Poles Patryk Dobek and Mateusz Borkowski, with no previous 800m championship pedigree between them, made up for a slightly disappointing championships for the home nation by taking the top two places.
Seeing that no one was showing any inclination to make the pace, the Briton went to the front and led past 100m in 12.49, with Bosse (12.52) and Kszczot his nearest challengers. He powered through 200m in 25.92 just ahead of Bosse (25.92), Tuka (26.25) and Kszczot (26.30) with Borkowski (26.46) and Dobek (26.59) at the back.
Webb slowed the pace drastically on the second lap, reaching 300m in 40.04 (14.12 for that 100m) and 54.27 (14.23) at 400m. At this stage Bosse was still second (54.47), followed by Tuka (54.68), Kszczot (54.71), Borkowski (54.90) and Dobek (54.91).
Webb was still ahead at 500m (68.08) but Dobek, a 48.40 400m hurdles performer, powered past at the bell to lead through 600m in 80.66 with Webb in pursuit in 80.87 (26.40 for that 200m for the Briton) hotly pursued by Bosse (81.09), Kszczot (81.10) and Tuka (81.39) with Borkowski seemingly out of it, isolated from the rest in 81.67.
Through 700m, Dobek (1:33.33) stayed ahead but Webb was fighting and still looking like he had something left (1:33.54) while Kszczot (1:33.54) was putting him under pressure. Borkowski (1:34.23), who had blasted that last 100m in 12.56, was clearly moving faster than anyone but still had a lot to do as he passed a fading Bosse and Tuka.
Webb kept Kszczot at bay on the bend and moved out to see if he could get past Dobek but the hurdler held his form sufficiently to narrowly take gold in 1:46.81, which is surprisingly a PB but he will go much, much faster in the summer. His last 400m was 51.90.
“I decided to stay at the back and then change my rhythm to overtake the others and when they moved to the right I used my speed to take them on the left,” said Dobek. “I’m still planning to compete in the 400m hurdles in the summer but the coach might decide otherwise!”
Less than a metre back was a charging Borkowski in 1:46.90, having run his last 200m in a stunning 25.23 to confirm the form of his semi-final win.
Webb was only a metre away from the gold himself as a very tired Kszczot faded.
“I lost and came to win but I am proud of how I ran and trying to control the race,” said the Briton. “I wanted to make it fast and knew Dobek could be dangerous in a slow race but still thought I could win until the finish. The 1:45.99 semi-final was fast and I was so tired this morning.”
Webb’s 200m splits were 25.92, 28.35, 26.60 and 26.08.
Britain also picked up a bronze in the 4x400m and their task was made slightly easier by Poland having to withdraw because of positive Covid tests to some of their athletes.
With their three 400m finalists, it was no surprise that Netherlands won the gold in 3:06.06 and a Czech team with a fresh and hungry multiple world and European champion Pavel Maslak, who failed to make the final in Poland, took the silver in 3:06.54 just ahead of Britain’s 3:06.70.
The Dutch led all the way with Jochem Dobber (46.68), Liemarvin Bonevacia (46.64), Ramsey Angela (47.32) and Tony van Diepen (46.25) not winning by the sort of margin that their pre-championship times suggested.
For Britain, Joe Brier led off with a 47.43 in fourth, followed by Owen Smith’s 47.05 which moved the team up to third, a brilliant 46.09 from James Williams actually moved Britain into a share of the lead by the final changeover and a well-judged 46.13 by Lee Thompson, who chased the top two into the final bend, ensured bronze.
Williams, who made the individual semi-finals, is a teacher and actually carried out a Zoom teaching lesson on Friday between his heat and semi-final.
Defending champions Belgium, with a less than fully fit squad, were fourth in 3:06.96 though Kevin Borlee did run the fastest split with a 45.69 anchor.