Mark English confident of qualifying for Rio Olympics

800m runner is focused on medals in this year’s Beijing World Championships

There's very little eating Mark English. A bronze medal last year in the European Championships, one colour better this year in Prague with a silver in the European Indoor Championships, the World Championships in Beijing on the summer horizon and the Rio Olympics soon to come next year.

For a runner, who likes to control his couple of laps, English has been making progressively sharp moves towards the podium. Rio is the ultimate goal but the perspicacity of the UCD student shines through.

English talks like a canny veteran and watches YouTube clips of Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett, although at 22-years-old he wasn’t born when they competed. Beneath the cold science of the 800 metres, he is also captivated by it.

“In Rio I’ll be in good physiological condition,” he says. “My body will be in great condition. Likewise for Tokyo [2020 Olympics] but I might have a bit more experience for Tokyo that will allow me approach the rounds better. I think I’ve garnered enough experience at this stage to give Rio a good shot.


“I know most of the opponents I’ll be racing this year and next year. I know their strengths, I know their weaknesses, I’ve studied them and I’m learning a lot. So I don’t think I’ll be in a worse place when I’m older.”


The Rio qualifying standard is 1.46.00 and he hasn’t bagged it yet. But he has run the time 10 times before and sees the number as one that will come to him in the course of the season.

“If I’m not running that time I don’t really want to be going out [to Rio]. I think I should get the standard pretty early this season and that will allow me to try peak towards late August.

“I didn’t run that standard indoors. Indoors it’s a bit harder to run faster, about a second slower. Hopefully I can get it in May or June. That would be ideal for me as it would give me enough time to try and peak instead of having to chase times throughout the summer.”

The inaugural Baku European Games are on his mind in the Team Championships as well as Diamond League events, if he can get entry in London, Monaco and New York. There's also the Morton Games in Santry.

"[I'm] back racing on May 26th in Ostrava in a 600m race. David Rudisha should be racing and word is he's going for the world record.

“I’m pretty excited by it as all the pressure is going to be on him. Nobody will expect much from me. That’s a nice position to be in when racing a world record holder.”

Three races

But it’s the beginning of a long season and Beijing is the pointy end.

“I’m gearing for the Worlds and running three races over there. A lot of athletes probably focus on a once-off 800m race and try to get a fast time. My main motivation is to go to championships and try to get a medal, so I’ll be training for three races.”

Confidence doesn’t hurt. He goes into the season eyes wide open, unafraid and ambitious.

"The guys I'm going to have to start beating, three of them are European. The guy that won the European Indoors, Marcin Lewandowski, he's one. [André] Olivier from South Africa, he's another one I'm going to have to beat, guys from Holland and Sweden too . . ."

Youth and talent, priceless.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times