Luiza Gega claims three medals ahead of European championship
TIRANA, Feb. 21 – Albania’s middle-distance runner Luiza Gega grabbed three medals in one week competing at the European Athletics Indoor Meetings in Paris, Ostrava and Istanbul, setting new national records and breaking her personal bests.
The 28-year Albanian runner finished third at the women’s 3,000 meters in Paris on Feb. 10, before winning silver in the Czech Indoor Gala in 1,500 meters on Feb. 14 and claiming gold at the Istanbul Athletics Cup three days later with a national record and personal best of 4:06.66 in the women’s 1,500 meters.
“Gega’s run in Turkey moves her up to fourth on the 2017 European indoor rankings and suggests she’ll be in the mix for the medals at the forthcoming European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, which will be held in the Serbian capital from 3-5 March,” wrote Switzerland-based European Athletics Association on its portal.
Gega, who was the only Albanian athlete to directly qualify in the 2016 Rio Olympics, was unlucky in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase last summer due to a last minute injury.
She had previously finished second in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam ahead of the Rio Olympics and claimed gold in the Women’s 1500 meters in the Baku 2015 European Games.
Gega, who has been training in Kenya recently, says her good shape has changed her plans about the participation in the Belgrade European Championship.
“While in Kenya, we decided not to participate in the European championship, but considering my shape in the past week, the coach and I made a last-minute decision to attend,” Gega told reporters upon arriving in Tirana.
Coach Taulant Stermasi is optimistic saying “Luiza is always among Europe’s top five in the 1,500m and 3,000m and unbeatable in the 3,000m steeplechase.”
Running is emerging as a new success in Albania where weightlifting and wrestling have been the traditional best performing Olympic disciplines.
Financial support for sports other than football where Albania achieved a historic milestone with its first-ever participation in the latest European championship in France, is really modest, which has led a considerable number of Albanian athletes to switch to other national sides.
Three former Albanian athletes represented the United States, Australia and Bulgaria in the Rio 2016 Olympics where Albania participated with a reduced number of athletes.