Rothlin turns on heat to cap stunning return

Switzerland's Viktor Rothlin broke after 25km (nearly 16 miles) to set up the most unlikely triumph in the men's marathon on a hot, humid day here at the European Championships yesterday.

Rothlin, just 18 months after he could have died from a double pulmonary embolism, quickly built up a lead that he continued to increase, coming home in two hours, 15 minutes, 31 seconds to give Switzerland their first medal of the championships and improve on his own silver from four years ago.

Spain's former 10,000m European champion Jose Manuel Martinez was second in 2:17.50 and Russian Dmitriy Safronov third in 2:18.16.

That winning margin of 2:18 was the widest since in this event for 52 years. "Barcelona felt like my first marathon for me and, at the start of the race, I didn't know if it would be my last," said Rothlin.

"I love to run in the heat and, compared to Osaka [and the 2007 World Championships where he won bronze], it was cold. I'm happy to say I'm back."

Italy's Stefano Baldini, the 2004 Olympic champion, returned to competition after almost two years to defend his European title but dropped out at about halfway, having been up with the leading group for much of the time to that point.

Britain's Lee Merrien finished eighth, despite having to stop running with cramp for a brief period.

He clocked a time of 2:20.14, finishing just under five minutes behind Rothlin.

"I am really, really pleased with that. It was beyond my expectations," Merrien said. "It was a bit touch and go over the last couple of kilometres as I had to stop just after 40km with cramp in my hamstring.

"Luckily, I stopped for about 10 seconds and got going again. I lost one place because of it, but I'm over the moon with that eighth."

Team-mates David Webb, Dan Robinson, Ben Moreau and Martin Williams were 16th, 19th, 24th and 28th respectively.

The women's marathon had been run the previous day, with Lithuania's Zivile Balciunaite shrugging off the cloying Mediterranean heat to claim gold.

The unfancied 31-year-old improved on her fourth-place finish in 2006, completing the course through the perpendicular streets of the Catalan capital in a season's best time of 2:31.14.

Russia's Nailya Yulamanova was second in 2:32.15, ahead of the Italian Anna Incerti in 2:32.48.

With temperatures hovering around 27C and the hot sun intermittently bursting through the clouds, Balciunaite was one of a pack of 11 runners leading the 43-strong field at the 25km mark before she then pulled steadily away from her rivals.

"This was my day," she said . "I love this weather. My friends, my coach, everyone told me, this is your day. In Beijing and Göteborg, it was too cold, but this I loved."

Balciunaite had spent a month before Barcelona preparing at altitude in St Moritz. "I've no idea what distance I ran. My coach wrote all that down. But it was over 200km a week, that is for sure. I trained twice a day. No holidays," she said.

That rigorous regime had her in top shape and clearly helped prepare her to take the victory here. "I had no doubts I was going to win," Balciunaite added. "I felt so strong."

And she was even prouder to be the first Lithuanian woman to win a European gold. "I can't put it into words," she said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Field Engineer

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has 30 years of ex...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Account Manager

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing cloud based I...

Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager - Software & Services

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Exhibition Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding B2B exhibition and...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat