Marcus Lawler reminded that times count for nothing

All Irish hopes in the 200m now rest with Leon Reid, recently transferred from Britain

Ireland’s Marcus Lawlor after finishing his 200m heat in Berlin. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ireland’s Marcus Lawlor after finishing his 200m heat in Berlin. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Most athletes will tell you that times count for nothing in championship running. Marcus Lawler was reminded of that the hard way on Wednesday morning when exiting his European Championship 200 metres heat - neither the clock nor the position on his side.

No excuses either: Lawler had lowered his best to 20.40 seconds in the weeks before Berlin, and with new seeded rounds, was ranked fastest in his preliminary heat, the 12 seeded athletes already into the semi-finals. He ran 20.80, finished fifth, never close to the top three positions needed to progress to the semi-finals. Simply not good enough, as he said himself.

Other athletes did progress with slower times from other heats, but that’s no consolation. The 23 year-old Carlow athlete hadn’t come all the way to Berlin to watch those semi-finals on TV now had he?

“That’s just not good enough, there’s no other way to put it,” admitted Lawler. “I had a target of making the final and that wasn’t good enough. I don’t know what went wrong. I ran my own race the whole way through. But it just wasn’t there. Ranked number one on paper, in that heat, and I can’t pinpoint what went wrong. It’s been such a good season, and that’s why it’s so devastating.”

Running in lane two didn’t help, but doesn’t explain it all either. Likoúrgos-Stéfanos Tsakonas from Greece took the win in 20.49, Lawler simply too far back to sneak through as one of the two more non-automatic qualifiers; in truth he won’t have had a better of making the semi-finals, that seeded format arguably suiting him, if only he had made it count.

Thomas Barr, incidentally, got a bye into his semi-finals of the 400m hurdles - and on Tuesday evening booked his place in Thursday’s final, where he’ll race for a medal out of lane eight: however he’s necessarily not a fan of the seeded rounds: “It that leaves nothing to chance, really,” said Barr. “I don’t particularly like what they’re doing, because I like to run the rounds, and I don’t think it’s fair.”

So all Irish hopes in the 200m now rest with Leon Reid, recently transferred from Britain to Ireland, and who also got his bye in the semi-finals later this evening (7.20) on the back of the 20.27 seconds he clocked at last month’s British Championships.

That 20.27 is inside the Irish record of 20.30 set by Paul Hession back in 2007, and Reid, just turned 24, is also now eligible to break those marks. He may need something sub-20.3 to make the final, but he’s certainly gunning for it.

He comes with medal credentials too, having won Commonwealth Games bronze for Northern Ireland back in April: he originally finished fourth, only for Zharnel Hughes, representing Anguilla, to find himself disqualified for a lane infringement, after finishing third.

Hughes however found some golden consolation inside the Olympiastadion on Tuesday night when winning the European 100m for Britain, completing a historic double after Dina Asher-Smith, the defending 200m champion, won the women’s 100m in 10.85.

In this case, Hughes, who won gold in 9.95, a European Championship record, is ineligible to represent Anguilla, a nation not recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for sporting purposes; however as a resident of a British Overseas Territories, such as Anguilla, Hughes is also eligible to compete for Britain on the international stage, including these European championships.

Reid and Hughes will avoid a rematch, however, as the British sprinter is not doubling up in Berlin. Asher-Smith will go for double gold in the 200m, six years on carrying the athletes’ kits as a volunteer at the 2012 London Olympics - and who already bridged a 56-year gap since Dorothy Hyman last won the 100m title for Britain back in Belgrade in 1962.

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