The British men’s 1,500m hasn’t been in the best shape since the halcyon days of the 1980s and after Jake Wightman actually brought down the great Jakob Ingebrigtsen last summer, it was Neil Gourley’s turn.
The Scot had never won a major Championship medal before but is convinced he too can conquer the scalp of what may become the greatest man ever and for a split second here it looked possible.
Ingebrigtsen had adopted his usual tactics. Hit the front early and gradually pick up the pace in the intimidating manner of a motorized derny during the pre-stage of a track bike rider.
Chaos was instantaneous behind Ingebrigtsen as George Mills – son of former England footballer Danny – collided with Gourley and then lost his footing to fall, ending his chances of a European indoor medal after less than 200m.
Gourley calmly executed his pre-race plan and, after chasing the indoor world record holder and outdoor champion to the bell, attempted to race down the final backstretch. He duly advanced onto Ingebrigtsen’s shoulder, but after a casual glance over his shoulder, the Norwegian picked up the pace. It was just enough to stop Gourley but not wasting an ounce of effort ahead of the 3,000m, which of course he will also win on Sunday.
There was just 0.28 seconds between them at the finish line – and Ingebrigtsen had run a championship record time of 3:33:95 – but he was brutally honest and admitted he had a lot left in the tank. “Of course it was comfortable,” said Ingebrigtsen nonchalantly. “I expected something to come and I reacted pretty quickly. good race Good fight.”
Gourley already broke the British 1,500m indoor record this winter and, like Wightman, is convinced Ingebrigtsen can compete at the World Championships in Budapest this summer. “We all knew he was beatable,” Gourley said. “Jake has improved. I’m trying to do that this year. He’s one of the best ever to do this, but very beatable. The better one won today.”
Gourley felt that Mills could have joined him on the podium if he hadn’t crashed on the first lap. Mills bravely got up and tried to run back into the race, but it was a hopeless task and by his own admission he “raged” at the finish. “Someone cut me off or tripped me from behind, but what can you do?” he said. “I’m burned out. I think third was a takeaway. I would never drop out of a race no matter what. I have more motivation now.”
As well as Gourley’s silver, British athletes won two other medals at opposite ends of the distance spectrum on Friday night, with Melissa Courtney-Bryant taking bronze in the 3,000m and Daryll Neita sprinting to third place in the 60m.
Because Dina Asher-Smith decided not to compete, Neita had run 7.07 seconds in the semi-finals but slowed slightly in the final when it seemed possible, behind Ewa Swoboda and Mujinga Kambundji, who won a championship record in 7.00 seconds, to achieve a silver medal.
Courtney-Bryant, who set a women’s park run world record in 15.31 on Christmas Eve, might have less regrets about her bronze medal. “It’s really emotional,” she said. Laura Muir and Keely Hodgkinson will be favorites to win a middle distance doubles for the British women at the weekend, with Muir competing in the 1,500m on Saturday and Hodgkinson in the 800m the following day.