Belfast Telegraph

I'll give it everything against the world elite, vows Ciara Mageean

Just great: Ciara Mageean celebrates qualifying for the 1,500m final
Just great: Ciara Mageean celebrates qualifying for the 1,500m final

By Brian Hill

Confident Ciara Mageean has revealed how altitude training has helped her hit new heights as she prepares to take on the biggest challenge of her career tonight when she faces the best athletes on the planet in the 1,500m final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha (6.55pm GMT).

Mageean created history on Thursday night in the Khalifa Stadium when she became the first Northern Ireland woman to make a senior World Championship final.

She is also only the second Irish woman ever to do so after Sonia O'Sullivan in 1997. The only male athlete from Northern Ireland who has achieved this feat is Gary Lough, husband of Paula Radcliffe, in the 1,500m in Gothenburg back in 1995.

This has been a fairytale journey for the Portaferry woman, whose dreams of success on the world stage were finally realised in the rough and tumble of Thursday's semi-final.

In that race, Mageean finished fifth among a phalanx of top athletes who sprinted for the line in the home straight.

In a tactical race, where Mageean, competing for Ireland, and Great Britain's Sarah McDonald led for most of the way, victory went to Dutch 10,000m world champion Sifan Hassan in four minutes and 14.69 seconds.

Mageean just snatched the vital fifth qualifying place in 4.15.49 from a despairing McDonald, who failed to qualify.

Looking forward to competing on her biggest stage, Mageean said: "I'm over the moon. It's my first World final. I have worked a long time to get to this stage and I am ecstatic.

"We don't often have an Irish vest in a Championship final. I'm going to the line and will give it everything in the final.

"I feel I am in the best shape of my life. I have been training at altitude in St Moritz and it is really helping. I have a strategy with my coach Steve Vernon. I am concentrating on speed over the last 100m of a race and this really seems to be paying off.

"I am privileged to be racing and rubbing shoulders with the best 1,500m runners in the world in an event which is now in an era of its own."

Mageean will face major challenges tonight, particularly as she is the slowest of the 12 athletes in the final. The 11-time Irish title holder must face not only the four athletes who were ahead of her in her semi-final but also Olympian Jenny Simpson of the US, who won the other semi in a very fast 4.00.99.

Also racing is double European champion Laura Muir, who was third and is now back to full fitness after injury.

However, there is a significant silver lining for Mageean, who earlier this year took bronze in the European Indoors in Glasgow.

The World Championship timetable is exhausting with three hard races in as many days.

While Mageean had to run a fast first round in four minutes and four seconds, she had the luxury of only really being tested on the final lap of her semi-final, which was covered in 57 seconds. She is therefore likely to have conserved more energy than those in the other semi.

More significantly, it is clear that the Lisburn AC woman is a transformed athlete from a year ago and is now able to challenge virtually anyone in a tactical race over what she describes as the "gut-wrenching final 100m".

Her concentration on 800m races to refine her sprint speed for the longer event has clearly paid dividends. Coach Vernon said last night he was delighted that all this dedicated training with his high-quality group in Stockport was finally paying off.

Also competing for Ireland this weekend is Leevale's Alex Wright in the 20k walk. South Belfast's Stephen Scullion goes in the marathon.

• New world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson admitted she briefly considered quitting the heptathlon after previous heartbreak.

The 26-year-old took the title at the World Championships in Doha in a new British record on Thursday night.

She beat Jessica Ennis-Hill's old mark - which she set when winning gold at London 2012 - to post 6,981 points and shock defending champion Nafi Thiam.

It came after disappointments at the World Championships in 2015 and 2017 and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Ennis-Hill admitted Johnson-Thompson questioned her future during the lap of honour in Rio but after her stunning victory in Doha the Liverpudlian is relieved she did not give up.

"It was probably in the moment," she said. "I was fed up of this feeling, doing a victory lap or not doing a victory lap because I was injured and knowing my body could not respond.

"But I'm stubborn and I just kept going. I didn't want to give up on something I believed in."

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