The incredible form of Konstanze Klosterhalfen over the last 12 months has surprised even herself. This is how she turned her Olympic dream into reality.

Runner not a thrower

Konstanze Klosterhalfen first started athletics when she was just a nipper. “I was four of five years old,” the bright-eyed 19-year-old tells SPIKES.

That was in the small town of Konigswinter, near Bonn, in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Aged 11 she moved to Leverkusen and joined the famed Bayer athletics club. Klosterhalfen used to tag along with her big brother, Nicholas, who ran until he chose to pursue football (booo). That left Konstanze to take up the mantle.

“I tried everything,” she says. “I wasn’t bad at high jump, but throwing disciplines I wasn’t good.”

She found herself most suited to running. She enjoyed the training and the group, so began to “specialise” in middle distance events.

Favouring the fifteen

Klosterhalfen’s talent was obvious from a young age. She clocked 2:38.42 for the 800m at the age of 12. That’s fast.

She has improved consistently every year, racing over distances of up to 10km (on the roads). This year she has lowered her 800m PB to 2:01.55, ranking her fourth in the world in the U20 lists.

But at the moment her focus is the 1500m, her favourite of the middle distance events and the distance over which she came fourth at the 2014 Youth Olympic games in Nanjing.

“I think every event has a speciality,” she says, “but I think the 800 is a little bit too short and 3000m is a little bit too long!”

Konstanze Klosterhalfen ()

Klosterhalfen won 3k bronze at the Bydgoszcz World U20s in a national junior record 8:46.74

Junior glory

The last 12 months have seen Klosterhalfen shine internationally. Last summer she took bronze in the 1500m at the European junior (U20) champs, which she described as “pretty special”. At the back end of last year she won the junior race at the European Cross Country Championships in Hyeres, completing the 4.15km course in 13:12 to lead Germany to team gold.

That XC win was a “complete surprise”, but the reputation it earned her meant a medal at the World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz was less so. Competing in the 3000m, she led for much of the race before being passed late on by Ethiopia’s Beyenu Degefu (who won gold) and Bahrain’s Dalilah Gosa (who claimed silver).

“I’d hoped that the African athletes would make the pace,” admits Klosterhalfen. “I like to run at the front and make my race. But I had some fear about the way that they were behind me.”

Yet a 8:46.74 national junior record and shiny bronze medal meant she was delighted with her podium performance.

“It was great!” she beams.

Senior steps

It’s not just on the U20 scene that Klosterhalfen has impressed. She scored an eye-catching victory at the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting in May. Establishing a lead by sticking with the pacemakers (unlike the seasoned pros also competing), she displayed great strength to hold for a memorable win in a PB 4:06.91.

It earned Klosterhalfen a raft of noteworthy scalps, including those of world champs medallist Hannah England and 2012 Olympic finallist Lucia Hrivnak Klocova. She insists she wasn’t even concerned about getting caught – her main objective was clocking a fast time.

“In Ostrava it wasn’t like [Bydgoszcz] because it wasn’t a competition for a medal,” she says. “I could just run and the time was important.”

The time was important: it was under the qualifying standard for the Rio Olympics.

Brazil bound

Klosterhalfen had proven herself worthy of a berth at the Rio Games. The 2016 German national championships offered a chance to underline her status as her country’s best metric miler.

“At the beginning of the season I didn’t know that I could really make the team for Rio,” she admits. “My trainer [Sebastian Weiss] said it was possible, but I didn’t expect it.”

She made it possible by winning the 1500m in 4:07.92. It was the fastest time at any German championships for 20 years and gave her a near four-second victory.

“In Ostrava I ran with a pacemaker. I wanted to prove I can run well on my own,” Klosterhalfen said after the race. Her emphatic performance ensured she’d be on the plane to Rio.

“I cannot describe it,” she says of making her first Olympics. “It’s just fantastic. It’s a dream.”

Model athlete

Tall, athletic and young, if Klosterhalfen weren’t strutting her stuff on the track she’d most likely be doing it on the catwalk. Turns out she already has.

“A friend said I would fit in the image of a model because I’m tall,” she says of the modelling work she has done. But for now her focus remains athletics.

“At the moment there isn’t very much time for it, so I had to leave it alone,” she adds.

Her off-track time is squeezed by university classes. The smiling sweetheart studies sports journalism in Cologne and says that if she pursues that profession in the future she’d like to be on the telly 💻 .

Strive for the five

Looking beyond Rio, Klosterhalfen says she is planning to go on holiday to Ibiza (but not to party, she promises). Beyond the beach she hints at her future lying in the longer distances.

She has run up to 15km in training and was dominant on her 10km debut on the roads, winning in Leverkusen in March this year in 32:24. She enjoys the challenge of pounding the pavement – “it’s completely different,” she says – but isn't looking to abandon the track any time soon.

“Maybe I will try after this season for the 5000m,” she ponders. “My trainer says it’s a good discipline for me.

“But I think the 1500m is for me at the moment. I hope I can make progress in the next year like I have the last years.”

RE-READOur coverage of Bydgoszcz 2016