Just when it seemed like there was simply no disputing the absolute dominance of Jakob Ingebrigtsen in winning the 1,500 metres at the European Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland, was there?
No, eventually, because after running away with the gold medal, as he did, the 20-year-old Ingebrigtsen was at first disqualified for a minor lane infringement inside the first lap, pushed it seemed, which under rule qualified as an “infringement of the inside border”.
The appeal process went into the night, and it seemed the title and gold medal might go to defending champion Marcin Lewandowski of host nation Poland, who clocked 3:38.06 and in truth never got close to the young Norwegian, the consolation being Ingebrigtsen still had a gold medal shot in the 3,000m, as defending champion from Glasgow two years ago.
Instead, he was reinstated as champion, just rewards for a superb piece of championship front-running from Ingebrigtsen, which left the rest of the 13-man final chasing for the minor placings: with two Irish finalists for only the second time in European Indoor history, a strong finish saw Andrew Coscoran come home in seventh in 3:40.38, with Paul Robinson 10th in a time of 3:40.74.
“Immediately there is some disappointment,” said Robinson, “but looking at from where I’ve come from, seven years since my last championships, that’s huge, to be out for seven years, and two rounds here back to back is pretty tough, and I could see the bronze medal hadn’t gone away, so we chased hard for it.”
In indoor championship running where anything can and often does go wrong, and tactics become paramount, Phil Healy showed exactly why when easing into her final of the 400 metres.
Like she did in Friday's first round heat, Healy took the race early on and took the win in 52.41 seconds, giving herself a good lane draw and every chance of contesting a medal in Saturday's final. Finishing with Romanian Andrea Miklos, who was given the same time, Healy will certainly fancy her chances for a medal now.
“I’m absolutely buzzing,” she said. “I didn’t make it to the bell first but coming down 300, I knew I could take it and then coming round the bend I was like, ‘I’m qualifying for this final, there’s no other way about it. Getting into the final is bonus and as Paul Robinson said, ‘When there is no pressure on, you’re dangerous, when you have nothing to lose you’re dangerous.
“So I’m going to go out there and give it my all and I’m just thrilled to be in the final. But it’s not over yet just because I got into a final. I’ll be going out there and giving everything that I have.”
Earlier, Healy won her first round heat in 52.00 seconds, just outside her lifetime best of 51.99 clocked in Dublin two weeks ago in what was her first race of the season, where got the better of Swiss runner Lea Sprunger, who took second in 52.25.
No such joy earlier in the day for Sophie Becker or Sharlene Mawdsley in their heats: Becker ran a time of 53.31 to claim a third place finish, but that wasn't quite fast enough to qualify as one of the fastest losers; Mawdsley finished fifth in her heat in 53.68.
Not long after Healy’s super run in her semi-final, 18 -year-old Longford Leaving Certificate student Cian McPhillips once again displayed his exciting class for the second time this winter with a confident run to secure a place in the 800m semi-finals, taking second place in his heat in 1:49.98.
“Feeling quite tired now at the minute, the air is quite dry in here,” he said, “but happy out with what I ran. I was hoping to be on the leader’s shoulder, and look, I knew I had to make a move at that stage, the guys behind me had a good kick, and thankfully a gap opened up and I was able to move into it. I’m quite young, have two years left as a junior, but I’m not here to make up the numbers, happy to make the semi-finals, and let’s see can we push on.”
Mark English also got through a tough heat to make the semi-finals, the three-time European medal winner taking third in his heat in 1:49.79, despite appearing to briefly lose his footing around the final bend. Just missing out in heat four was John Fitzsimons, who came very close to making it before finish fifth in 1:51.00
“I got into a bit of a shoving match there,” said Fitzsimons, “I had to go with, but I gave it a good go.”
Earlier in the session, Nadia Power ran with similar tactical astuteness to book her place in Saturday's 800m semi-finals, running comfortably throughout to clock 2:03.16, victory there going to Poland's Anna Wielgosz in 2:02.72.
That turned out to be the fastest of the six heats, where only the top three progressed, leaving absolutely no room for error. Síofra Cléirigh Büttner discovered that when finishing fourth in her heat in 2:04.47, Georgia Hartigan also missing out despite a brave effort in the opening lap, as she also finished fourth in 2:04.74.
Saturday’s schedule of Irish in action
Men’s 60m semi-final, 12.50pm Irish time
Women’s 800m semi-final, 6pm Irish time
Men’s 800m semi-final, 6.25pm Irish time
Women’s 400m final, 7.25pm Irish time
60m final 7.58pm, Irish time