English satisfies to progress to 800m final

Mo Farah toys with the field as Usain Bolt looks on from the stands

He pumped his fist in the air after just 300 metres, which might seem like a dangerously premature celebration for an 800 metres race. Except this wasn't actually his race, but the moment Mark English knew he'd qualified for the European Championship final.

Ideally, English would have pumped that fist at the end of his own race, although after finishing a close fourth in 1:46.23 – with only the top three automatically progressing to the final – English needed to wait and watch the second semi-final. Only then would he know whether that final place was his or not.

Actually he didn’t have to wait until the finish at all. That race started out casual, and by the 300m mark English realised he was safe. So it proved, as Poland’s Adam Kszczot crossed the line first in 1:47.12 – well shy of English’s time in finishing fourth a little earlier.

“Yeah I knew they were too slow in the second semi, going through 300m in 40 seconds,” he said.


“So look, I’m just delighted, my first senior final. I wanted to make top three, obviously. But I raced late yesterday, winning my heat, didn’t get much recovery. But I’ve full day recovery now, to get fully rejuvenated, before the final.

“And I mean the nerves I felt out there, well . . . I’ve never felt nervous like that. No matter why I’ve done in my life, exams, races, or whatever.”

That is saying a lot, given the 21-year-old from Donegal has just finished his first-year medical exams at UCD, and does have quite considerable racing experience. Yet English came to Zurich determined to make the final, although the quality of opposition meant that was never going to be straightforward.

Winning his semi-final was the big Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse – or the “Boss”, as he insists on being called, after dropping the accent from his surname. Still only 22, Bosse ran 1:42.53 in Monaco last month, a French record and fourth fastest European in history. His 1:45.94 here looked easy, and he’s certainly the man to beat in the final.

Yet English was on his heels coming into the straight, before he was passed by Artur Kuciapski, the 20-year-old third Pole, who took second in 1:46.05. Then, passing English inside the last 20 metres, was Andreas Bube, the 27-year-old from Denmark, who won silver in Helsinki two years ago.

“Well I ran pretty much race my own according to plan,” said English. “I knew it would go out fast, that Bosse wouldn’t let it go slow. My aim was to just stay in lane one, make sure no one came by me.

“I was there when Bosse took the lead again with 200m to go. I tied up a little in the home straight, but the wind played into that a little. But it was always my main aim to make the final. I would have finished top three if I could, but I knew when I saw my time flash up on the screen that I’d a very good chance of making it as a fastest loser.”

English had come in unbeaten in eight races, between 400m and 800m, including heats. The last man to actually beat him in a race was David Rudisha, the world record holder and Kenya’s Olympic champion, who beat English into second at the New York Diamond League, two months ago.

His thoughts will now turn to tomorrow night’s final, will inevitably will involve different tactics from all eight finalists, but English is there and proven he’s good enough and that’s certainly satisfying enough for now.

No such joy for either Brian Gregan or Richard Morrissey in the semi-finals of the 400m. Gregan did run a season best of 45.81, good enough for sixth, but reckoned his mistimed his finish a little, as only the top two went through. However the two fastest losers also came from that semi, Gregan thus being even closer that he possibly thought. Morrissey, however, came home a disappointing eighth in his semi, running 46.64.

Amy Foster also went out in her semi-final of the 100 metres, her 11.79 seconds only good enough for eighth on the night.

As for the longest race of the night, the men’s 10,000m, that went to perfectly familiar plan for Britain’s Mo Farah, who made it a seventh major championship distance title in succession – including his World and Olympuic doubles.

Here, Farah toyed with the field as usual, before kicking for home on the last lap, winning in 28:08.11, in what was actually his first track race of the summer.

Team mate Andy Vernon claimed a hard-earned silver, dipping past Ali Kaya – the Kenyan-born Turk – on the line.

Although Britain couldn’t quite make it a one-two in the 100m, as James Dasaolu won gold in 10.06, with team mate Harry Aikines-Aryeetey winning bronze in 10.22, while Frenchman Christophe Lamaitre dipped between the two, winning silver in 10.13.

Watching from the stands was Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, and probably not very impressed by the fact no one broke 10 seconds.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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