Portaferry’s Ciara Mageean produced a stunning performance in Amsterdam yesterday to clinch bronze in a highly tactical European Athletics Championships 1,500m final, her first ever senior medal.
The 24-year-old’s achievement is even more memorable considering the athletes covered the first 800m in a pedestrian two minutes and 46 seconds.
The Lisburn AC woman finished the last lap in 59 seconds despite being impeded on the home straight. The gold medal went to Poland’s Angelica Chichoka in four minutes and 33 seconds with Mageean a mere 0.02 seconds behind favourite Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands in 4.33.78.
Mageean, who will be racing in the Rio Olympics, last achieved international acclaim as a Junior when she took silver in the World Championships back in 2010.
She said: “My aim was to cover all moves in a slow race. I wasn’t worried as I can out-kick almost anyone. I was a little frustrated at the end at not getting silver as I had loads in my legs. I am now excited about the Olympics.
“It’s been five years since I wore an Irish vest and a year ago I was on crutches. This was not just about me but also my coach and everyone in Portaferry who has supported me.”
In the inaugural European Half Marathon, Annadale’s Paul Pollock ignored the muggy warm conditions and finished as first Irishman in 17th position in a time of 64 minutes and 58 seconds. Mick Clohisey was 32nd in 66 minutes, followed by Kevin Seaward of St Malachy’s in 34th, 20 seconds later. The trio will race in Rio next month.
Sergiu Ciobanu, who objected to Pollock’s selection for Rio, was nearly three minutes in arrears in 57th place. The race was won by Tadesse Abraham of Switzerland in 62:03.
A relieved Pollock said: “I am happy to be the first Irishman. I have just come off a big block of training and I’m looking forward to Rio. Sergiu has appealed to the Court of Arbitration against my selection but I think this result bodes well and justifies my place. I am injury-free and hope to do well in the Olympics.”
In the women’s race, Clare McCarthy was 48th in 76 minute and two seconds, while Gladys Ganiel of North Belfast was 71st just over two minutes later.
Ireland had an unprecedented three athletes in the women’s steeplechase final, all of whom will be in Rio. Newcastle’s Kerry O’Flaherty, Michelle Finn and Sara Treacy were locked together with 400m remaining before O’Flaherty attempted to break away. She was caught by Finn, who went on to record a personal best of nine minutes and 43.19 seconds for seventh place.
O’Flaherty then battled it out with Treacy, who managed to overtake a couple of rivals in the last few metres for ninth place in 9:45.19. The blanket finish relegated O’Flaherty to 12th in 9:45.88.
Earlier, Ballymena’s Christine McMahon finished fifth in the 400m hurdles in her second fastest ever time of 56.87 seconds.
The Irish men’s 4x400 relay team were an impressive fifth in three minutes and 4.32 seconds. The sprint relay team, which included Derry’s Jason Smyth and Jonathan Brownlee of Ballymena, came eighth in 39.52 seconds.
The Great Britain women’s 4x400m relay quartet of Emily Diamond, Anyika Onuora, Eilidh Doyle and Seren Bundy-Davies made a huge statement ahead of Rio by running a world-leading 3:25.05 to claim an emphatic victory, winning by almost a second.
The men’s team had been expected to follow suit, but Matthew Hudson-Smith tied up horribly in the final 50m and was passed by Belgium and Poland.