By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BELGRADE (03-Mar) — Britain’s Laura Muir made it two for two here today, also advancing to the final of the 1500m at the 33rd European Indoor Championships at the Kombank Arena.  Her hopes of winning gold in both the 1500m and 3000m remain alive.

At 17:13 local time, approximately five hours after she competed in here 3000m heat, Muir won the first of three 1500m heats in 4:10.28, clocking the fastest time of the day here.  With three laps to go, she was part of a breakaway group with Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen and Serbia’s Amelia Terzic.  With only the top-2 guaranteed to advance, Muir sprinted hard in the homestretch to secure her position, winning the heat by only 7/100ths of a second over Terzic who was loudly cheered by her home country fans.  Klosterhalfen, who at 20 is competing in these championships for the first time, finished third and her mark of 4:10.37 was third-fastest on the day.

“I wanted to conserve as much as I could ahead of the finals tomorrow and on Sunday,” Muir told UK Athletics after the race.  “Home athletes always seem to pull it out the bag, so I had to keep an eye out for the other girl [Terzic], but I got the job done.”  She added: “You always want to win a race, so you just have to be sensible and just do what is necessary. The job is done for tomorrow, so I’ll just rest-up now.”

Also advancing to tomorrow’s final was Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui, Sweden’s Meraf Bahta and Britain’s rising star Sarah McDonald.  The tiny Ennaoui breezed to victory in the third heat in 4:11.91 and felt sharp, despite not racing recently.

“It’s my first race in two weeks,” she told Race Results Weekly in a brief interview.  “I know I will be better tomorrow, race by race, day by day.”

In the men’s 3000m preliminary round, Turkey’s Ali Kaya tried to run away with the first heat, building up a seven-second lead midway through the race.  But Norwegian veteran Henrik Ingebrigtsen, who said he hadn’t raced in 200 days, wasn’t having any of it.  He stayed back and would slowly reel in the former Kenyan along with Italy’s Marouan Razine, Sweden’s Jonas Leanderson, and Spain’s Carlos Moya.  With a lap to go, that foursome swept by Kaya, and in the final push for the line, Leanderson got the win in 7:54.93 to Razine’s 7:55.17 and Ingebrigtsen’s 7:55.26.  Kaya, who finished fifth, advanced on time.

“I thought immediately just let him go,” Ingebrigtsen told Race Results Weekly.  “I was just focusing on the other guy (Razine) and finishing top-four.  So that was my plan; just to say out of trouble and just be at the right position when there are two laps left, three laps left.”

Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan, who won the 3K at these championships in 2013, won the second heat in 7:57.74.  Aras Kaya of Turkey, Richard Ringer of Germany and Adel Mechaal of Spain also advanced from that heat and have legitimate chances for medals.

Closing out the middle and long distance action here tonight was the men’s 1500m prelims.  Times were slow, and the only significant athlete who was eliminated was Filip Ingebrigtsen, Henrik’s younger brother, who faded in the first heat to finish sixth.  That heat was won by veteran Tom Lancashire of Great Britain who took control of the race with three laps to go and won easily in 3:47.37.  He said he didn’t want to underestimate his competition for tomorrow’s final.

“It’s going to be a totally different race tomorrow,” he told UK Athletics.  “But, today gave me a lot of confidence and the one thing I have to my advantage is I am strong and running tomorrow won’t hurt me as much as some of the other guys.  So I’ll try and capitalize on that tomorrow.”

In the third and final heat, Germany’s Timo Benitz got the win in the fastest time of the day: 3:43.09.  He was followed by Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski, the 800m gold medalist from these championships in 2015, and Sweden’s Johan Rogestedt, who finished third.

The 33rd European Indoor Championships continue here tomorrow at Kombank Arena.  In the middle and long distance events, the semi-finals of the 800m will be contested for both men and women, plus both 1500m finals.