Masterkova’s path to the world mile mark began at age 12, when she started training as a runner. But running wasn’t her idea – she ran at the insistence of a physical education teacher during the last decade of the Soviet Union. She first flashed her potential on the international scene by placing sixth in the 800 meters in the 1985 European Junior Championships at age 17. Six years later she won the national 800-meter title and placed eighth in the World Championships.
She suffered a variety of injuries over the next few years but did manage to earn a silver medal in the 1993 World Indoor Championships. She then took a maternity break in 1994-95, but began training again just two months after giving birth to her daughter, Anastasia.
The time away from the track was clearly good for Masterkova’s legs. She remained healthy in 1996 and not only blossomed in the 800, but also ran in the 1500 at the Russian championships – only the second 1500-meter competition of her career – which she won.
Masterkova ran a then-personal best to win an 800-meter event in Monaco on Aug. 10, one week after her Olympic 1500 victory, then she traveled to Switzerland to run her first-ever competitive mile, at the Weltklasse Grand Prix in Zurich on Aug. 14.
Mastering the Mile:
After the race a surprised Masterkova told reporters she “felt a bit tired after the Olympics and Monte Carlo last weekend. But I guess only my head was tired, not my legs.”
On Aug. 23, Masterkova capped her four-week surge by setting a world 1000-meter record, running 2:28.98 in Brussels.
The following month, at the height of her success, Masterkova remained a reluctant runner. She revealed that her entry into her sport “wasn’t voluntary. It still isn’t. Sometimes when I’m training now, I’d rather rest than run.”
She continued running for a few more years, but was again hampered by injuries. Masterkova won the European 1500-meter title in 1998, then overcame an ankle injury to win the 1500-meter gold and the 800-meter bronze at the 1999 World Championships, which became her final triumph. She officially retired after the 2002 season.