By Owen Morgan
Melissa Courtney ran a huge personal best to break the 31-year-old Welsh 5,000m record in an eventful European Athletics Championships final in Germany on Sunday night.
The Poole AC athlete slashed almost 12 seconds off her previous best set in Holland in June.
Courtney’s time of 15:04.75 eclipsed the previous Welsh best of 15:13.22 set by Cardiff AAC’s Angela Tooby in Oslo back in 1987.
The 24-year-old initially finished in sixth place in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, but was upgraded to fifth following the disqualification of Lona Chemtai Salpeter, who had a race to forget.
The 10,000m champion had been challenging for a medal as the field approached the bell.
However, the Israeli athlete had miscalculated the amount of laps and stopped running believing she had just won a silver medal.
Realising her mistake, Salpeter started running again and eventually finished fourth, but video footage later showed she had run inside a cone at the start of the race and was disqualified.
In contrast, Courtney had run a steady race keeping in touch with the leading pack during the early stages.
The Commonwealth Games 1500m bronze medallist started to lose contact as the pace at the front increased, but looked strong throughout and thoroughly deserved her top five finish.
Courtney said afterwards: “Obviously coming into a final everyone wants to medal; I don’t think you can go into a final without that thought in your mind, and I thought I was capable of mixing it with those girls today, but I really can’t complain – I’ve walked away with a big 12-second PB.
“I had my sights set on the Welsh record anyway, but I didn’t know how this race was going to be run so I’m really happy with that.
“I saw Eilish take it on and kind of tried to follow the pace; I had the feeling someone would take it on today, so it was about going with it and seeing what I could do.
“There are so many girls in there who have made finals, and not by scraping into them, and with it being my first year doing the 5000m I am happy.”
The race was won by pre-race favourite Sifan Hassan, of the Netherlands, in a championship record of 14:46.12, while Courtney’s Great Britain team-mate Eilish McColgan claimed silver in a time of 14:53.05.