Among the 31,000 people in the Olympic Stadium late Thursday evening there was probably only one person who – apart from her competitors – was a little or maybe even quite annoyed by Konstanze Klosterhalfen. In any case, the high jumper Mateusz Przybylko swore to himself. He had been asked to jump by the judges, although the runners were over 5,000 meters on the course. Przybylko waited and waited; and when the run was over and he finally wanted to jump, Klosterhalfen made his way to a small lap of honor and crossed Przybylko’s path again, who shortly afterwards tore the pole during his jump.
This little mishap, which could hardly be blamed on an overjoyed Konstanze Klosterhalfen, did not change the wave of euphoria that the 25-year-old woman generated among the fans. Klosterhalfen won the 5,000 meters in 14:50.47 minutes, making her the first German European champion over this distance.
She didn’t believe in victory for a second, she said later. “I even thought about not running at all.” Klosterhalfen only started the 10,000 meters on Monday and finished fourth after an exhausting race. Her trainer, the American Pete Julian, even advised her not to. But Klosterhalfen wanted to run, soak up the great atmosphere in the Olympic Stadium and ignored her coach’s advice. He later wrote on Instagram: “She deserves this. I’m so proud of you Koko.”
Klosterhalfen entered the race as a blatant outsider. Not because you wouldn’t generally trust the Germans with the title. But because of their fitness. She was only infected with Corona in June, a few weeks later she competed at the World Championships in Eugene over 5,000 meters and – still slightly weakened – did not even make it to the final. Also in the field on Thursday was Yasemin Can, who is starting for Turkey, an exceptional runner who has already been successful over 10,000 meters in Munich.
Klosterhalfen followed Can’s heels for a long time. Born in Kenya, she attacked after a little more than half the distance and set hellish lap times. Klosterhalfen didn’t let the gap get too big, caught up with her two laps before the end and finally pulled away. The audience in Munich’s Olympic Stadium was upside down. Klosterhalfen slapped his face in disbelief.
“There is still a lot to do”
For Klosterhalfen, however, the title at the European Championships is not the fulfillment of their sporting mission. On the contrary, now is the time to really get started. “There is still a lot to do,” she even said right after her brilliant run. Klosterhalfen wants to get to the top, at the top of the world. Maybe one day become an Olympic champion.
Her talent and her environment could make that possible. In 2018, Klosterhalfen joined the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) in the USA, which was probably the most ambitious training camp for middle and long-distance runners in the world at the time. But the spiritus rector, the trainer Alberto Salazar, had humiliated some of his runners years before Klosterhalfen hired there and at least experimented with doping. Salazar was banned for four years by the American Anti-Doping Agency in 2019 for doping violations.
The NOP no longer officially exists. It continues under a different flag. Some of the old staff are still there – such as Klosterhalfen’s coach Pete Julian. Now there are no indications of doping offenses or anything else against athletes like Klosterhalfen. But the old Salazar spirit is now hovering over the follow-up training group, which is why the doping hunters are also looking closely at the athletes.
Nothing has changed in the possibilities and in the orientation of the NOP follow-up camp: With a great deal of effort, both financial and personal, only the most talented and, above all, the most ambitious athletes are pushed. Konstanze Klosterhalfen is both, but above all talented. Running sometimes feels like she’s floating over the track, she once said a few years ago.
It also looked weightless during her brilliant final run on Thursday. “It wasn’t just my work, I also heard the tone of the audience,” she said. “This is the most beautiful moment of my life.”