When Great Britain’s Emelia Gorecka crossed the line as the winner of the 3000m at last month’s European Athletics Junior Championships in Rieti, her body language showed what this title meant to her. The 19-year-old’s arms stretched flamboyantly in the air expressed the relief she felt after two years of waiting for this victory.
Gorecka is no stranger to international triumphs, having won the European junior cross country title in 2011 and placing third in the world junior 3000m last summer. However, Gorecka had been disappointed to miss out on gold in the 5000m by one second to Turkey’s Esma Aydemir at the 2011 European Athletics Junior Championships in Tallinn and from that day on, has been waiting for the 2013 edition to make amends.
Gorecka tries to explain how important becoming European junior champion on the track was to her. She says: “The European Juniors was definitely one of my main aims of the season. Having missed out two years ago, I had every intention to come into these Championships to win the 3000m and gain the track international title that I always knew I could achieve.”
Having entered the championships in 2011 as the fastest athlete on paper, Gorecka was determined not to make the same mistake again and risk being outsprinted, which could explain her willingness to lead and increase the pace from the 1km mark. “The pace started off fairly steady and sensibly, going through 1km in 3:10. I had agreed with my coach Mick Woods that if I felt good, I would start to push on the pace and break up the group as much as possible, “revealed the Aldershot, Farnham and District athlete.
Gorecka made light work of seeing off her opposition, as with 1km to go, she had reduced the group to just her and Aydemir. But despite feeling strong, Gorecka was still not taking anything for granted.
“Coming into any major championships I am now always astutely aware of athletes that I am not particularly familiar with, and as I hadn’t raced this athlete before, I had no idea what her finish was like or how quick she was. Therefore, I kept my head down and kept on pushing the pace,” she explained. The result was two consecutive 3:01 kilometres for the final 2km. But all Gorecka was concerned about was running fast enough to break away so she could have a clear run for home. “I didn’t look back or slow down, as all that was in my mind was pushing towards that line to make sure I was not out-sprinted again!” she reflects.
Gorecka also felt the atmosphere in the stadium in Rieti together with the success of the Great Britain team helped inspire her victory. On the penultimate day of competition, Great Britain had already totalled eight medals in the space of two hours and Gorecka was determined to add to that gold medal haul and contribute to what the team considered to be their own ‘super Saturday’.
With plenty of experience from international junior championships and boasting pbs of 8:55.11 and 15:34.21 for 3000m and 5000m respectively, Gorecka has all the tools to make the transition to senior competition next year. Already this year she has had a taste of it, finishing a gutsy second in the European Athletics Team Championships over 5000m and placing tenth in the 3000m in the London Olympic Stadium at the Sainsbury’s London Anniversary Games and Diamond League.
“I am now very hungry and excited to start my senior career, but first I want to enjoy my last winter as a junior and regain my European U20 cross country title and extend my run of consecutive English National cross country titles to eight,” explains Gorecka.
Currently studying for a degree in Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, it is fitting that Gorecka is a well-balanced young athlete, who is all too aware that she needs to keep working hard with her feet on the ground in order to be successful. “I think I will thrive from racing new competitors in the next phase of my career. But a year is a long time in sport, so I am just taking everything one step at a time, trying to progress and run some pbs,” she explains.