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Savinova ponders defeat

Mariya Savinova

Mariya Savinova

Considering how unbeatable Mariya Savinova has been for the last three years it was something of a surprise to see her eclipsed so comprehensively in the 800m in Moscow.

Silver can hardly be viewed as a disappointment for most people, but for the seemingly indestructible Savinova it amounted to a shock of seismic proportions.

“I feel a little bit uncomfortable about it,” admitted Savinova. “I’m not used to losing.”

She can say that again. Ever since she finished fifth in the Berlin World championships, the Russian two-lap specialist has not seen the back of anyone’s vest.

Her rise to power came in the 2010 Barcelona European championships and she has not been usurped at a major championships until last week when Kenyan Eunice Sum caused a big upset to beat the Russian to gold.

“I never believed Sum could break her own lifetime best by a full two seconds,” said a shocked Savinova.

Clearly, the Chelyabinsk athlete thought that she had all her opponents covered. After watching American danger, Alysia Montano, front run her way into the final, Savinova knew exactly what to expect from that quarter.

In the final, Montano followed the same recipe and set off at world record pace, passing the bell in 56.12.
“It was clear that Montano could not keep that pace going all the way to the finish, but I certainly made a mistake with the Kenyan,” reiterated Savinova.

“You need to turn it on with 150m to go because it is hard for everyone at the finish. This is exactly what happened but I had allowed Sum to get slightly in front of me. I made a mistake. I admit it.”

Considering Sum’s personal best coming into the final was over three seconds slower than the Russian’s, it is an understandable miscalculation. But had she seen the Kenyan before?

“I knew of her of course, but I was not sure that she was ready for that kind of performance.”

Ever since Savinova burst onto the scene with her trademark finish at the European indoor championships in Torino in 2009 to capture gold, her dominance in the final straight has been a constant.

In the London Olympic Games she put so much daylight between herself and the opposition she claimed she could have zigzagged down the straight and still won. But in Moscow the edge seemed to be missing.

“It just was not there in Moscow,” said Savinova. “Although in training my speed was slightly better than for the Olympics. I was well prepared and ready.”

Savinova is resting for the moment and won’t be at the Stockholm meeting tomorrow. But there are plans for two more Diamond League outings.

And then what? Defeat sits uneasily with her and she is cautious about committing herself. Losing is a new experience: “Once we have got these races out of the way we will sit down, my coach and I, and consider things with a clear head.”

source EA

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