This Israeli Athlete Was Set to Win a Medal – but Then Made a Tragic Mistake

Despite the error, Lona Chemtai Salpeter did set a new Israeli record for the 5,000-meter race

Itamar Katzir
Itamar Katzir
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Lona Chemtai Salpeter, August 12, 2018.
Lona Chemtai Salpeter, August 12, 2018.Credit: \ MICHAEL DALDER/ REUTERS
Itamar Katzir
Itamar Katzir

A rare error on the track cost Lona Chemtai Salpeter a medal in the 5,000-meter race Sunday evening. The newly minted 10,000-meter champion in the European Athletics Championships in Berlin thought that she had finished the race in second place to win a silver medal, when in fact she still had another lap to go.

Chemtai Salpeter, who was leading the runners three laps from the finish, apparently gave gas a bit too early. She lost strength and slowed, letting rivals pass her, led by Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, who swung in from behind her and crossed the finish line at 14:46.12, setting a new championship record.

Chemtai Salpeter recovered and resumed running, but she had lost her strength and momentum and was left off the podium, finishing fourth in the end. She did set a new Israeli record for the distance at 15:01 minutes.

Salpeter realizes there is one more lap to go while Netherlands' Hassan runs on to win the women's 5.000 meter final race at the European Athletics Championships, Berlin, Germany, August 12, 2018.Credit: Michael Sohn,AP

Last Wednesday, Salpeter, 29, won a gold medal in the 10,000 meters, making her the first woman from Israel to win a gold medal in these championships. She ran the race in 31:43.29 and dominated the course. “I wanted to win this medal so badly because my son said, ‘I want Mom to win first place,’” she said after the win. “I’m really happy. I dreamed about this, but I didn’t think it would happen. This gold is very important to me, and I’m dedicating it to my country, my family and my son.”

Earlier on Sunday, Marhu Teferi set a new Israeli record for the marathon, finishing seventh with a time of 2:13, topping the old record by a minute and 21 seconds. Israeli runner Adva Cohen, who in preliminary rounds broke the Israeli record for the 3,000-meter hurdles, was scheduled to run in the finals of that competition.