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Rio Olympics: Ciara Mageean in top form for the biggest race of her life

By Brian Hill

Ciara Mageean faces the moment of truth when she competes in the first round of the 1,500 metres in the Rio Olympics tonight (8.30pm BST).

The 24-year-old from Portaferry goes into the most important race of her life with the comforting thought that she is in the form of her life following her bronze medal in the European Championships a month ago.

Read more: Rio Olympics 2016: Live blog, full events schedule and medals tables

In that race in Amsterdam the Lisburn AC star showed clear evidence that she can cope with the abrupt pace changes which are always the hallmark of a major championship race.

After a pedestrian first 800 metres Mageean kept pace with the best in Europe to just miss out to World Indoor champion Sifan Hassan for silver on the line.

Mageean's last lap time of under 60 seconds could be critical in Rio where she will be disappointed if she does not reach the semi-finals.

This high expectation is not unreasonable as it follows her best ever track season culminating in Northern Ireland's first ever European medal.

In the past 12 months she has also set Northern Ireland records over 800 and 1,500 metres plus the mile, which was also an Irish record. Equally importantly it has been an injury-free season which is something of a rarity for the UCD student.

All eyes will therefore be on Mageean to see how the 2010 World Junior champion will perform on the greatest sporting stage of all.

Earlier in the programme, Ulsterman Mark English will be hoping to reach the semi-finals of the 800 metres.

The 23-year-old student has already enjoyed success at European level where he has an indoor silver and outdoor bronze to his credit. He suffered an ankle injury earlier this year but came back in eye-catching form recently with a classy time of 1.45.36 in the London Diamond League meeting.

Triple European Cross Country champion Fionnuala McCormack will also be in action in today's 10,000 metres final.

The in-form ex-steeplechaser was unlucky in Amsterdam where she finished fourth ahead of Britain's Jo Pavey.

It remains to be seen if McCormack will recover in time from today's race to compete in Sunday's marathon.

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