Ireland’s Rhasidat Adeleke wins European sprint double

Both Cian McPhillips and Nick Griggs also added gold medals for Ireland in Estonia

European sprint doubles aren't often won like this, especially at Under-20 level, Rhasidat Adeleke running head and shoulders above her rivals when this time adding the 200 metres title to her name - improving her own Irish senior record in the process.

It was another spectacular run on many levels, arguably one of the finest of these European Under-20 Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, as Adeleke took the win in 22.90 seconds, her now eighth underage sprint medal in all. She doesn’t turn 19 until next month.

That improved her own senior record of 22.96, which she took off Phil Healy back in May, and gave the Dublin sprinter a winning margin of over half a second on her nearest rival, the Dutch sprinter Minke Bisschops winning silver in 23.55, Britain's Success Eduan winning bronze in a personal best of 23.62.

Within the hour Cian McPhillips added a third gold medal for Ireland with a brilliant victory in the 1,500m, the Longford teenager oozed class and confidence as he kicked from the front around the final bend, imposing himself impressively down the backstretch.


It was properly tactical too, only McPhillips was never ruffled, winning in 3:46.55 ahead of Dutch runner Rick Van Riel, second in 3:46.69, with Henry McLuckie the best of the British trio in third, running 3:47.15.

Coached by Joe Ryan, McPhillips has also been in flying form this season, running a superb Under-20 record over 800m indoors of 1:46.13. He brings this European Under-20 1,500m title back to Ireland for the first time since 2005 when Colin Costello won gold, with Danny Darcy in second.

Less than half an hour after that class win for McPhillips, Nick Griggs (still only 16) made it gold medal number four for Ireland, winning the 3,000m with another remarkable display of calm and yet utterly confident running.

Sticking close to the front of the 15-man final from the gun, Griggs dug for gold with just over 200m remaining, and soon opened up a winning lead, taking the victory in 8:17.18, affording himself a raised arm as he crossed the line, as well he might.

Running with Mid-Ulster AC, it was all the more impressive given Griggs endured a close family bereavement just last month, days before he won the National Junior 3,000m title in Santry. The only other Irish winner of this title was Nick O’Brien back in 1985.

With a deceptively long stride, Griggs pulled away from silver medal winner Yassin Mohumed from Germany, who clocked 8:18.36, with Britain’s Alex Molloy third in 8:18.49.

Sprint double

It all came less than 24 hours after Adeleke struck gold in the 100m, producing another blistering run there from the gun to take that win in 11.34 seconds. She won her 200m heat two hours later, cruised through her semi-final earlier on Saturday, saving her best for the final - the first women’s sprint double at these championships since 2011.

Her 100m victory also brought that European sprint title back to Ireland just four years after Gina Apke-Moses won it for the first time in Grosseto, Italy in 2017, her winning time on that occasion 11.71 seconds.

It also adds to the gold Adeleke won over 200m in the European Under-18 Championships in Gyor, Hungary in 2018, before in 2019, winning a rare sprint double at the European Youth Olympics in Baku. It means she’s now won eight international medals at various underage competitions, at both World and European level.

It does raise some deeper questions as to why Adeleke wasn’t given a place in Irish Olympic 4x400m mixed relay team in Tokyo, given she was clearly one of the athletes in form.

Still Adeleke continues to build further on her record season to date. Back in May, continuing her already record-breaking freshman season at the University of Texas, she clocked 22.96 seconds in her heat of the 200m, which improved Healy’s Irish senior record of 22.99, which had stood to the Cork runner since 2018.

Last month at the National championships in Santry, Adeleke also won her first senior 100m title, and might well have improved her own Irish Under-20 record in the process too, her time of 11.29 seconds (just shy of Phil Healy’s national record of 11.28) ruled out given the tailwind was just over the legal limit.

Adeleke was also part of the 4x100m relay team that won the silver medal at the 2018 World Under-20 championships in Finland. Earlier this season, Adeleke twice broke the Irish Under-20 200m record, which had lasted 21 years, clocking 23.25 seconds.

Before this season her previous 200m best was 23.52. Adeleke was poised to go faster last year before Covid-19 brought about a series of cancellations, from her written Leaving Cert exams at Presentation Terenure to the World Under-20 Athletics Championships, set for Nairobi, Kenya, and now rescheduled for this August, one week after the Tokyo Olympics.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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