Mark English qualifies for his third Olympic Games as he breaks his own Irish 800m record

31-year-old Donegal doctor puts disappointing European Championships behind him by booking Paris ticket

Mark English qualified for the Olympic Games after making the qualifying time at a meeting in Finland. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Any doubt that Mark English might fall short of qualifying for his third Olympics was quickly removed when he broke his own Irish 800 metres record on Tuesday evening, dipping inside the automatic Paris qualifying time in the process.

English had gone to the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland partly with the aim of improving his ranking points in the hope of qualifying for Paris via the event quota. He came away with something far better, his 1:44.69 in second place inside the 1:44.70 automatic qualifying time, and Paris now beckons for the 31-year-old Donegal doctor.

Finishing a close second to Andreas Kramer from Sweden, who took the win in 1:44.65, English also improved his Irish record of 1:44.71 set three years ago. That time also qualified him automatically for Tokyo, and also broke the 1:44.82 mark which had stood for David Matthews since 1995.

English had further motivation going to Turku, part of the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold, given by his own admission the disappointing run at the European Championships in Rome earlier this month, where he exited in the first round after running 1:46.73.


Clearly fired up for his effort, English chased hard coming into the homestretch, passing Benjamin Robert from France, who took third in 1:44.79.

The men’s 1,500m in Turku produced a brilliant Irish one-two, as Cathal Doyle once again lowered his lifetime best to 3:34.09 to finish just ahead Luke McCann, who clocked 3:34.32.

Though both Dublin athletes are still outside the automatic Paris standard of 3:33.50, their ranking will improve notably on this. McCann is already up to 39th, inside the quota of 45, with Doyle just sitting outside on 49th.

Sarah Lavin also bounced back from her Rome disappointment by running her season best of 12.66, just shy of her Irish record of 12.62 which already qualifies her for Paris. Nia Ali of the USA took the win in 12.48.

Louise Shanahan also secured valuable ranking points in the 800m, finishing 10th in a season best of 2:02.59, while Thomas Barr took fourth in the 400m hurdles in 49.46 as he too closes in on that quota spot ahead of the June 30th cut off.

English becomes the 10th Irish athlete with an automatic time for Paris, along with the mixed 4x400m relay and the women’s 4x400m relay.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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