Athletics News

Mechaal overwhelmed with emotion after making 3000m final in Istanbul

Mechaal overwhelmed with emotion after making 3000m final in Istanbul

Turkish runner lost friends and relatives in last month’s earthquake but rose to the occasion on the opening night of the European Indoor Championships

Emine Hatun Mechaal was overcome with emotion after qualifying for the women’s 3000m at the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul. The middle-distance runner lost friends and relatives last month in the Turkish earthquake disaster, but despite struggling with heartbreak and missed training she chose to compete on Thursday (March 2) and, after an anxious wait, made the final on Friday as one of the fastest losers.

“This was so important to me,” she told AW. “It is important for people to see their flag in the final. It will make them happy. I am here for them and I am standing for them.”

The 27-year-old special education teacher wore a black ribbon on her singlet and added: “I am feeling so sad but I will be running for my city (Antakya in the Hatay Province) and I will be representing them here.

“I know 50 people who have died – my cousins, my neighbours, my friends. Many of them we don’t know if they have died or are in hospitals.”

Hatay was one of the worst areas hit by the earthquake, which is thought to have affected around 14 million people as it struck southern and central parts of Turkey and also Syria almost a month ago.

“My preparation was going so well until February 6,” she said. “Then when I learned what had happened in 11 cities, one of which was my own city, it was not a good moment. I lost a lot of my shape.

“I was so worried about my family and what was happening there. They were living on the streets and I could not concentrate on anything else. Finally I moved my family to a safer place and I began to find a little rhythm again.”

She was watched by some of her family in the Atakoy Athletics Arena on Thursday night and said: “Every time I see them and I hear their cry I need to stand more stronger because I am a runner and they have to see me strong.”

After running 9:03.03 to qualify, she said: “When I ran here I heard them here – my nephews and my family – and I thought I cannot stop here. I had to fight until the end.”

Running under her maiden name of Emine Tuna, she narrowly beat Britain’s Jess Judd to under-20 women’s gold at the 2014 European Cross Country Championships in Bulgaria and has since gone on to run 8:55.91 for 3000m in addition to winning multiple Turkish and…

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