Rhasidat Adeleke takes silver in 400m at European Championships

Silver adds to the fantastic medal haul for Ireland following Friday night’s gold in mixed 4x400m relay and Ciara Mageean’s triumph in the 1,500m

It was oh so close to being the absolute masterpiece of one-lap running required from Rhasidat Adeleke to claim a third European Championship gold medal for Ireland inside four days, but in the breathtaking end the Dublin sprinter had to settle for silver after a suitably thrilling 400 metres showdown inside the old Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

What is certain is that Adeleke gave this her absolute all, and despite smashing her own Irish record of 49.20 when clocking a brilliant 49.07 seconds, had to bow to the slight superiority of Natalia Kaczmarek from Poland. Kaczmarek took the gold medal when improving her lifetime best by over half a second to break through the 49-second barrier for the first time, winning in a sensational 48.98 seconds.

Level with Kaczmarek coming into the homestretch, Adeleke called upon all her own reserves to marginally edge ahead with 50m to go, before simply running out of legs approaching the line as Kaczmarek came back again and showed her experience to finish that little bit stronger.

It’s still a second European medal for the 21-year-old, adding to that glittering gold already carved out from her second leg in the mixed 4x400m relay in Rome last Friday night. It’s also her first senior individual medal and surely not her last.


The two fastest European women’s 400m times this century are now Kaczmarek’s 48.98 and Adeleke’s⁩ 49.07 run here in Rome, further evidence if needed of the quality of race which unfolded.

“I just wanted to make sure I always kept myself in contention, get to 200m, then make my move,” she said. “It was really good. I would have loved the gold, but I could have not made the final, there’s so many things that could have gone wrong.

“But I’m just grateful to be here, I’ll take my blessing and hopefully one day I’ll be able to get my gold.”

The final showdown, run out of lanes two to nine, had Adeleke in lane six, with Kaczmarek outside in lane seven, exactly where the Dublin sprinter wanted her. When Adeleke took to her blocks, it felt as if the Stadio Olimpico hushed in anticipation. That reputation to dazzle and excite now precedes her, and if the pressure was on, she wasn’t displaying any of it.

“I really wanted to win, but my coach said before, whatever we can do here, we’ll do,” she added, gracious as ever. “And to come here a run a personal best, 49.07, I have to take that.

“But we’ve trained through this and we’ll train again for the next few weeks and hopefully by Paris, we’ll be where we need to be. It really does mean a lot to make the podium here, I didn’t get the gold, but hopefully I’ll get my chance again.”

Adeleke’s pre-race tactics on the night were no doubt aided by the presence of her coach Edrick Floréal, who had made the long trip from Texas to Rome to help ensure everything went as smoothly as possible. Truth is, she could hardly have raced it any better.

Adeleke also felt her coach would be satisfied: “You know what? I think he will. I don’t know what time he expected to win Europeans, that was a fast race. I was like, are we gonna taper a bit? He was like, no we’re not tapering. If you need to taper to win the Europeans . . . you know . . . I think he’ll be happy. He said you can run low 49, high 48 without tapering, so he knows what he’s saying. All credit to him.”

Although only her second individual 400m of the season, she in no way regretted to run that 4x400m mixed relay, even if it likely took some toll. “But I’m really, really happy. All grace to God, my friends, my family, my support team, all the fans who were in the crowd, cheering me on, everybody.”

The Irish medal challenge was sort of team effort, given Sharlene Mawdsley was also part of that gold medal winning relay quartet and had also booked her place in the final. The 25-year-old from Tipperary finished eighth in 51.59, almost a second off her best.

It was always going to be hard to beat Kaczmarek, the 26-year-old from Poland who finished second behind the Dutch superstar Femke Bol at these European Championships in Munich two years ago. The other big medal threat came from the Dutch woman Lieke Klaver, the 25-year-old with a best of 49.81 seconds, who nailed third in 50.08.

And with her 48.98, Kaczmarek broke Irena Szewinska’s legendary Polish record of 49.28 which had stood since 1976. Szewinska also won three Olympic gold, two silver and three bronze and was the only athlete in history to hold world records for 100m, 200m and 400m, further evidence if needed of this quality run on the night.

On this day exactly one year ago, Adeleke ran that Irish record of 49.20 seconds to take the NCAA title on her home track in Austin, Texas. Running 49.07 here is another sign of her improvement.

Also in final action on Monday night in the hammer was Nicola Tuthill, the 20-year-old from Bandon placing a fine ninth, with a best of 69.09 metres. Italy won another gold medal thanks to Sara Fantini’s winning throw of 74.18 seconds.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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