European Athletics Championships: Olatunde and Adekele make finals

Adekele secures the fastest non-automatic qualifying spot by nailing third in her semi-final

Ireland’s Israel Olatunde has reached the 100 metres final at the European Championships after finishing second in his semi-final.

In a close photo finish on the line, the Irish sprinter finished behind Marcell Jacobs of Italy. Otalunde was the eleventh fastest finisher in the semi-finals after running 10.20, but qualified automatically thanks to the second-place finish.

Olympic champion Jacobs had the fastest time in the semi-finals with a season-best 10.00, with British runner Zharnel Hughes second fastest at 10.03. The final will take place at 9pm.

In the 5,000 metres final, there was another superb top 10 finish for Brian Fay at a major European Championships with his trademark fast finish, finishing 8th in 13.31.87, as Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen defended his title with 13:21.13. Darragh McElhinny finished 16th in 13:39.11.


Elsewhere, Rhasidat Adeleke wasn’t even supposed to be here, booking a well-earned holiday to Mexico some time ago in order to relax and recover after a properly exhausting season which has seen her race 47 times already since the beginning of the year — indoors and out.

Before a change of mind a week and half ago convinced Adeleke that coming to the European Championships in Munich might be a good idea after all, and now she’s looking forward to race number 49 — which will be the final of the women’s 400 metres back inside the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night.

Having missed out on the World Championship final in Oregon last month by just one place, and still only 19, the Dublin sprinter had some leftover incentive perhaps to further raise her effort in this her 48th race this season — and that she did, securing the fastest non-automatic qualifying spot by nailing third in her semi-final in 51.08 seconds, her fastest heat time to date.

Victory went to Fenke Bol of the Netherlands in 50.60, Cynthia Bolingo from Belgium passing Adeleke in the closing strides to take second in 50.83; still no worries for Adeleke who will take her place in the eight-woman final, the youngest of the lot.

“I just wanted to make sure I got out, and was somewhat in contention coming off the bend, and hold on,” she said. “It’s quite a quick turnaround compared to Worlds, so I wanted to try conserve a lot of energy, but I guess I thought I was comfortable in second. Then I got caught on the line.

“I was pretty relaxed, initially we didn’t really know what shape we were in. It was kind of a late decision to come here after Worlds, and such a long season, then like a week and a half before the Europeans I thought, you know what I might go to Europeans.

“So I started training again and though yeah let’s go and do this, And that’s the fastest time I’ve ever run in a prelim. It’s important to have these experiences. I’ve been doing the 400m for such a short period that every race I am learning how to run it so each race is an experience in itself. I’m kinda learning about myself and what it takes to run certain times so, yeah, it’s great to be here. I put pressure on myself as well. There is always pressure. I am really ambitious.”

It was an earlier start for Ciara Mageean in her 1,500m heats, the Down runner looking to make a third successive European after winning bronze in 2016, then finishing fourth in Berlin four years ago.

Just like she did in the Commonwealth Games final two weeks ago, where she won silver, she imposed herself on the race, finishing second in a season best of 4:03.03. Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui edged ahead of her down the straight. Her final on Friday night now awaits.

With defending champion Britain’s Laura Muir winning the first heat as convincingly the medal hunt will likely be between these three.

“It went exactly as I thought, I was prepared for any race,” said Mageean, the 10.15am local start of no bother to her. “I wanted to stay out of trouble, I saw the men’s 1,500 yesterday and it was scrappy and I saw the boys fall back. At this level, everyone is there at the bell and you need to be ready and in a position to strike. Down the home straight I could see on the big screen and I knew I didn’t have to race the Polish girl to the line, I’ll save that for Friday.

“It felt good, it felt controlled, that was a season’s best but I know I’m in shape for much faster than 4:03. All eyes are on Friday and my full focus is on that. I’ll relax, put the feet up now. You always need to mentally prepare, it’s like going to war. You don’t go in there without putting your mind in the right place, you spend all year putting your body in the right place.

“I’ve taken a close look at their races and Ennaoui ran very well and I’ve taken note of that. Muir is obviously a world-class athlete and she showed me that at Commonwealths. But I went out in that race with the aim of trying to win gold and battle for it and I’ll do the same here.

“You put yourself up there and if you don’t get gold, hopefully it’s silver. If you don’t get silver, hopefully it’s bronze, but I believe I’m one of the best athletes in that field and I’m going to go out and prove it.”

No such joy for Sarah Healy in the first race, the 21 year-old made a promising start, holding a position in the first half of the race before fading to 11th, her 4:10.75 well outside her best. In a typically honest assessment of her race Healy — as she did in Tokyo last year — said the matter may well be psychological.

“Obviously it was terrible, I just didn’t feel like myself,” said Healy. “I trained the best I ever had since (the World Championships in) Oregon but I do struggle a lot mentally and I thought I got it sorted for today, but it’s like my energy just goes. It’s like I don’t care when I’m racing, even though I care so much.

“If I’d just been a bit tougher I could have kept going, but I just decided to check out again. I keep learning the same lesson at every major championships, so it’s tough.”

Chris O’Donnell was also eying a place in the men’s 400m final after coming to Munich fifth best on times this season, only he too ran short of his best, clocking 45.73 in fifth, admitting afterwards that fell well short of his own expectations

“I was coming here with higher aspirations and it’s probably the first championships I’ve come to and underperformed. I need to sit down and look at things and figure out how to be better. I’ll keep working at it and I believe my day will come eventually.”

Brendan Boyce earlier in the day also moved slowly though the field of the 35km walk to finish 10th in the end, clocking 2:38:03 behind Spain’s gold medal winner Miguel Angel Lopez who took the win in 2:26:49.

Irish Athlete Tuesday Schedule (all Irish time):

9pm: Men’s 100m final: Israel Olatunde

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics