«In the finals, competition is going to be tough. All are under 49 second guys,» said Rasmus Mägi after securing a place in the Friday finals of 400 metres hurdles by running to Estonian record in the European track and field Championship in Zurich – 48.54, former record 48.77. Right after Mr Mägi, Marek Niit tackled the same distance without the hurdles – with 45.80, he narrowly failed to make it into the finals.
Yesterday, the competitions were hindered by strong gusts of wind and the evening races were postponed by half an hour. That, in turn, messed up the runners’ preparations. «Not a joke at all, with everything postponed like that. Had to redo the plans,» recalls Mr Mägi, reflecting on the hours leading up to the race. «Luckily, we were able to joke around with the boys so that calmed me down a bit.»
«As we run, the wind was no longer a bother. It was vital to have a good start, and I did. Yesterday, I was a bit timid to get going. Today, it worked,» said the runner. «The tenth hurdle was a little awkward and towards the end I looked aside once. So, considering the way I finished, the time was somewhat of a surprise.»
Mägi to analyse
What about tomorrow’s race, then? Aiming for a medal? «Hard to say what will happen,» admits Mr Mägi, unable to tell how many tenths he had to spare, in the semi-finals. «That I’ll be able to tell sometime in the future, once I have analysed the run.»
As the topmost competitor, Mr Mägi pointed out Timofei Chaly, Switzerland’s native Kariem Hussein, and the experienced Serb Emir Bekric. Also, Mr Mägi’s list included the Germans Felix Franz and Varg Königsmark. The very Chaly clocked the second time of the semi-finals, beaten in the finish by the Estonian.
Today, Mr Mägi has a day off and he knew not what the precise plans would be. «I have never found myself in a situation like this before – whenever I have made it into the finals, the race has been the next day,» he explained. «Now I will take time out to review all the races and to analyse them. Not clear yet, what I will do tomorrow (today – edit). Maybe I’ll rest, maybe I’ll do a little trot.»
Favourite status is a new experience for Mr Mägi as well. Should others fail to remind him, the «number plate» will be there to tell him – a nuisance, in a way... Namely, the European season leader has a differing blue number. «I’ll be honest, it feels a bit bad and adds to the tension,» confesses the runner.
Niit: I run out
Mr Niit was ninth in the semi-finals, fourth in his race. «Well I did give my all and that’s it,» said Mr Niit. The sprinter admitted he did not manage to practice 400 m enough this season. «I just run out by the final 50 metres. Wisdom for the future...»
Today, Mr Niit starts his 200 metres journey. «I will do it, for sure... but the speed is another matter – I think I have run out of strength really, with the 400 metres. I banked on that. So giving 100 percent in 200 m is not an option now...»