Yuliya Zaripova of Russia celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Women's 3000m Steeplechase final on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 6 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature London, UK

No stopping for Zaripova

London, UKYuliya Zaripova simply did not stop. After crossing the finish line in what was the greatest triumph of her life she continued running. Celebrating her gold medal in the 3000m Steeplechase the Russian produced probably the fastest victory lap of the London Olympic Games. The 26 year-old has now won the European Championships, the World Championships and the Olympic gold in a row.

On Monday she dominated the final and clocked a world-class time of 9:06.72 minutes.

"I came here to win the gold medal and I am so proud for my country to have won it – but I have probably not yet realised what I have achieved," said Zaripova and added: "In the future I want to get more medals, especially gold medals!"

"When I started preparing for London it was not going too well at first. But after a while I got better and better and then became very confident," Yulia Zaripova recalls.

To fully concentrate on her preparations for London she had postponed her final university exams. They were originally scheduled for May. Zaripova has studied sports education in her hometown Volgograd for five years. "I will now do the exams in September."

While she felt fit and confident when coming to London there were some obstacles in the past few days: "Somehow in our room we had no hot water. It was only cold, so we could not take a bath. But we got on with it," she says. Then she could not sleep well in the past few days because of the anticipations and the tension before the final.

"I have not slept much and I probably will not get much sleep in the coming days as well. There will be a lot of interviews and other things for me to come. But I am prepared for this."

While her young daughter, her husband and her parents stayed at home in Volgograd they will have to wait a little bit longer before the Olympic champion returns home. "I will stay a bit now, because I want to go shopping in London and buy some souvenirs," said Zaripova.

Born near Volgograd her father was an athletics coach for children. So athletics was the obvious choice for Zaripova. When she was young she also did Long- and High Jumping as well as Shot Putting. Then she wanted to become an 800m runner and was briefly coached by Gennadiy Naumov. But then a number of things happened. First she got married and gave birth to her daughter in 2007 and then her coach died.

Now her coach is Mikhail Kuznetsov, who convinced her to switch from the 800 metres to the Steeplechase. In 2008 she ran her first race at the new distance and clocked 9:54.9. A year later she achieved her major breakthrough when she collected a silver medal at the World Championships in Berlin, improving to 9:08.39.

Since then she won all her major championships in the Steeplechase. When she took the European gold in 2010 she beat the reigning World champion Marta Dominguez on home soil in Barcelona. A year ago in Daegu she won the World Championship with a similar frontrunning style she now showed again in London during the second half of the race. And there is another parallel to last year: in South Korea as well as in Britain she won the gold medal clocking personal bests. In Daegu she had run 9:07.03, now she improved to 9:06.72. It was a world leading time and the fourth fastest time ever.

"I thought it would be more difficult to win gold today. I had expected the others to be stronger," said Zaripova. "I could have run faster, but I did not want to take any risk."

In the future the 26-year-old Olympic champion wants to move up to the Marathon distance. There is already a good example for such a step in the group of runners coached by Mikhail Kuznetsov: Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova had placed second in the Steeplechase at the World Championships in 2007 and then was fourth in the 2008Olympics. Now she won the bronze medal in the Olympic marathon in London.

It looks as if Zaripova could have much more success in the future. In an interview she had once said: "I never stop."

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF