Lee Emanuel insists he will enjoy every minute of his rise to prominence after winning a silver medal at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague.
The 30-year-old from St Leonards brought the curtain down on the second day of action in the Czech Republic last weekend by coming second in the men’s 3,000m with a gutsy personal best time of 7:44.48.
Ali Kaya, born in Kenya but representing Turkey, set an incredible early pace and raced to a championship record of 7:38.42. But Emanuel held off Norwegian runner Henrik Ingebrigtsen to take second.
It was a moment that Emanuel has long doubted would arrive, but now that he has clinched his first major international championship medal, he is hungry for more.
“It’s huge. I’ve been battling away over the last eight or nine years. I’ve had some really bad races and some really bad times,” he said.
“This is definitely the peak and the happiest I have ever been running. There were times when I was 25 or 26 when I thought I would never be able to run at this level again let alone get medals.
This is definitely the peak and the happiest I have ever been runningLee Emanuel
“It’s a great achievement and hopefully I’m a bit of an inspiration to people because I was running so badly for two years and almost gave up.
“This season I think I have taken it to another level and hopefully I can carry that into the summer.
“When I crossed the line I was disappointed, but as the time goes, I’m getting happier and happier.
“I was trying to catch him (Kaya) and with about 400m to go, I realised I wasn’t going to. I had a look and knew I had a good amount of room behind me so at that point it was about trying to get to that line as fast as I could.”
Emanuel believes he may have finally found a rich vein of form that he can carry into this summer’s World Championships in Beijing and, ultimately, the 2016 Rio Olympics.
But for now he admits he is just happy to have come through a difficult race.
“I’m happy with that and the way the race went I don’t think I could have done any better to be honest,” he added.
“I wanted to try and win, and I thought I could win, but I think I underestimated how good that Turkish guy is and how fit he is at the moment. Sometimes you have to take your hat off and say he was better than me.
“I was tiring really badly during that last 200m and that was probably the hardest race I’ve ever done in terms of the strain I was under.”
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