English progresses while Britton disappoints on day of sharp contrasts

Irish man eyes medal chance in final after impressive performance

Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton didn’t feel competitive over the 10,000m distance. Photograph: Inpho

Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton didn’t feel competitive over the 10,000m distance. Photograph: Inpho


He said it was better than he ever felt. And the trick for Mark English now is to keep feeling that way. Because in this sort of form his 800m final can’t come soon enough.

She said her race was competitive, and Fionnuala Britton just didn’t feel competitive enough. Although her eighth place finish over the 10,000m has in no way put her off running Saturday’s marathon, even if that might appear to come too soon.

So went two tales of Irish runners inside the Letzigrund last night, Britton never really in contention for a medal, yet she finished strongly, clocking a season’s best of 32:32.45, as the gold medal went to Britain’s Jo Pavey, who at age 40 delivered a stunning victory in 32:22.39.

“It was competitive race, but not really a competitive run by me,” said Britton, being a little hard on herself. “And I don’t think I ran with enough confidence . . . I was there at the point I needed to be, with 2km to go, then all of a sudden I was gone.”

Britton now has less than four days to recover before running 26.2 miles – for the first time. “It was my idea, and in a way excites me, a good experience before Rio. I honestly don’t know what to expect, but I will be running as hard as I can for as long as I can. It’s funny because people keep asking me am I prepared, have I run the miles? Whereas for years people were saying I was running too many miles, that it was more like marathon training.”

For English, next up is the not automatic matter of negotiating this evening’s semi-finals first, although everything about English’s performance last night – winning his 800m heat in an alarmingly confident 1:47.39 – was like whispering out loud his medal-winning intentions come Friday’s final.

“It’s nice to walk off the track, and not have to tell you guys all that went wrong,” said English, who did everything right here, also turning in the fastest qualifying time of the night.

“I got myself nice sheltered around the first 600m, then went past [Britain’s] Andrew Osagie with around 150 to go, and never felt that so good.”

Never felt so good?

“Well not in a championship race,” he added.

“I think if you get to the final it’s anybody’s game. So it’s about the semi-final, now. It certainly should be more competitive. I do feel confident, but sure you need to be in a championship race. I was trying to conserve energy as well. So looking forward to semi-finals now, and putting all the hard work into action. And I do think there’s a lot more in the tank. I’d say I was in about fourth or fifth gear, of six.”

The Donegal athlete was brutally hard on himself after failing to progress from his heat at last summer’s world championships in Moscow and against that backdrop came

to Zurich on a mission. Ogagie faded to fifth, pulling up injured, leaving Poland’s Artur Kuciapski to chase English home, in 1:47.45.

Poland’s two other big challengers – Marcin Lewandowski and Adam Kszczot – also eased through, looking the part, as did gold-medal favourite Pierre-Ambriose Boose from France, who ran 1:47.54. From the two semi-finals the top three and two fastest losers will progress.

It doesn’t leave English with much room for error, and there was an unfortunate reminder of that when Declan Murray – the Irish-American making his debut in the green vest – was clipped from behind coming into the straight of his 800m heat.

By then, Murray was already struggling as he admitted afterwards, and ended up seventh, clocking 1:50.01.

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