Carroll takes 5,000m bronze

Six years after winning a European Junior title in Greece, Mark Carroll finally achieved the breakthrough in open competition…

Six years after winning a European Junior title in Greece, Mark Carroll finally achieved the breakthrough in open competition with a bronze medal performance in the 5,000 metres championship.

On his own admission, maturity has been a long and difficult process but on Saturday, the reward arrived after a brave, defiant run had taken him close to an improbable win.

Capitulation didn't come until 80 metres out and then predictably, it was two of the Spaniards, Isaac Viciosa and Manuel Pancorbo, both considerably faster this summer, who swept past him during a last lap which took just 54.02 secs.

The tactical nature of the race was reflected in a time of 13 mins 37.46 secs, figures which might incur derision in Grand Prix racing, but were largely irrelevant in the changed priorities of championship competition.


And the 26-year-old Cork man, who has run the bulk of his races in the United States, proved as astute as any when, in company with Dieter Baumann, he went to the front at half way and from there, dictated the pace for those behind him.

Even when the big charge developed and the Irishman was in danger of being taken off his feet by the speed merchants, he refused to surrender tamely and continued to hold his place on the kerb.

Mustapha Essaid of France almost ended up in the in-field after trying to force a way through on the inside, and it was only when Viciosa and Pancorbo went into overdrive on the last circuit, that Carroll reluctantly conceded.

It is a measure of his determination that he continued to fight Pancorbo for second place, all the way up the finishing straight, yielding only on the line, which he crossed in 13:38.15.

"Nobody takes my space and people wanting to pass me, had better be prepared to do it in lane four," he said. "It's a tough sport out there and unless you look out for yourself, you're walked on."

It was that rich competitive spirit that kept him alive for so long in a race which, devoid of an African presence, proved that the fascinaton of middle distance running does not derive exclusively from speed.

Carroll's achievement was given additional significance by the fact that it was only after a delayed judgement, that he was selected in the squad. That, primarily, was as a result of him pulling out of the national championships at the last minute because of 'flu.

He then launched an astonishing attack on BLE, accusing members of the Management Committee of not being fully supportive of his selection.

It was a sour incident which didn't fit easily into the celebratory nature of the occasion and the fallout threatens to be equally acrimonious.

Over the years, Carroll has been beset by injury problems and in the run up to Saturday's race, required constant treatment for a shin problem. That fact was suitably acknowledged in his appreciation of Dr Brendan O'Brien and his backup team of Mary Gowing and Shirley Foley.

It might have been more prudent to stop there, but with his piece said, Carroll left the stadium to savour an evening when he at last came of age as an international competitor.

His next stop is Lausanne where he competes in the Grand Prix meeting on Wednesday evening and the certainty is that his newly acquired reputation will now precede him there.

Triple jumper Jonathan Edwards saved his best for last and took the final gold medal of the Championships to bring a perfect ending to the British campaign. Edwards bounded out to a new championship best of 17.99 metres.