Sharlene Mawdsley shines a light on her Olympic potential

Rhasidat Adeleke also mixes it up with the finest US sprinters in LA

If Sharlene Mawdsley was perhaps overshadowed by Rhasidat Adeleke at the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas a fortnight ago – and not unfairly given Adeleke clocked the fastest 400 metre-split in the event history – it was Mawdsley who produced the shining performance of this weekend.

Her own one-lap runs in the Bahamas had been a telltale sign of things to come, Mawdsley anchoring both the mixed and women’s 4x400m relay teams to Olympic qualification, and then bronze medals in the mixed final, and on Saturday evening she secured her individual 400-metre qualifying spot, improving her best from 51.09 to 50.72 when winning at the Memoriał Janusza Kusocinskiego meeting in Chorzow, Poland.

Her time of 50.72 was well inside the 50.95 automatic mark for Paris, and it also moved Mawdsley to number two on the Irish all-time list behind Adeleke, and ahead of former Irish record holder Joanne Cuddihy, previously the only other Irish woman to have run under 51 seconds, with her previous Irish record of 50.73 seconds, set at the semi-finals of the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.

‘I did it’, Mawdsley said in a simple X post, the 25-year-old from Tipperary now bound for her first Olympics after missing out on selection for Tokyo

Adeleke’s current record is 49.20 set last June, and for Mawdsley, a first sub-51 second clocking this early in the season is just reward and another telltale sign of things to come.


“I did it”, Mawdsley said in a simple X post, the 25-year-old from Tipperary now bound for her first Olympics after missing out on selection for Tokyo, despite helping the mixed relay qualify there.

It’s just reward too for her coach Gary Ryan, Tipperary’s two-time Olympian in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, who took Mawdsley under his wing in 2018, at a time when she was in danger of drifting away from the sport completely.

Her individual qualification for Paris does create a dilemma similar to Adeleke, given the mixed 400-metre relay is on the first day of competition, two days before the individual event, and it’s not ideal to be competing in both. Mawdsley did run both the relay and individual events at last year’s World Championships in Budapest, which made for six races in a week, and then improved her previous 400-metre best to 51.09 in Zagreb in September.

At the same meeting in Chorzow, Nick Griggs improved his 1,500m best to 3:35.90, the still 19-year-old from Tyrone dipping under 3:36 for the first time, and bettering the 3:36.09 he clocked in Nice last July. It’s also an automatic qualifying time for next month’s European Athletics Championships in Rome, and adds important ranking points as he looks to seal Olympic qualification for that event via that process.

Adeleke meanwhile again mixed it up with the best sprinters in the world, nailing fourth place over 200 metres at the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix on Saturday evening. Racing into a -0.3 headwind, Adeleke clocked 22.45 seconds, just short of her Irish record of 22.34 seconds that she ran in Florida in April of last year.

US star Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone took the win in 22.07, her lifetime best, ahead of two US team-mates, Abby Steiner second in 22.32, with Brittney Brown third in 22.35.

Her coach Bobby Kersee said McLaughlin-Levrone is going back to the hurdles this summer ‘because that’s her main event’

The 21-year-old Dublin sprinter finished ahead of Gabby Thomas, who won bronze in the event at the Tokyo Olympics and silver at last year’s World Championships.

Though a little disappointed with her start, it’s another valuable experience as she moves towards the 400 metre in Paris. “I popped up straight away, and once I realised I did that, I was trying too hard to get back into the right form,” she said. “I don’t think I executed very well, I kind of was a bit all over the place but it’s part of the game and we go on to the next one.”

For McLaughlin-Levrone, the world record-shattering Olympic and 2022 World gold medallist in the 400-metre hurdles, the focus on Paris will be the 400-metre hurdles only, of some relief perhaps to Adeleke and the rest of the 400-metre flat specialists.

Her coach Bobby Kersee said McLaughlin-Levrone is going back to the hurdles this summer “because that’s her main event. That’s what we want to defend our Olympic championship in….”

Also shining over the weekend was Efrem Gidey, the Dublin runner producing the second fastest 10,000 metre in Irish history when clocking 27:40.00 to finish seventh At the Night of the 10,000 metre PBs in London, just shy of Alistair Cragg’s Irish record of 27:39.55.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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