Mark English eases heat at European Indoors

Dara Kervick, Declan Murray and Ciara Everard are also into semi finals

With a clear signal of both his medal ambitions and tactical cuteness Mark English comfortably qualified for the semi-final of the men's 800 metres - winning his heat after showing some sweet manoeuvring, and in the end with some room to spare.

Indeed English was one of four Irish athletes to progress from this morning's opening session of the European Indoor Championships Prague, with Dara Kervick also winning his 400m heat - that semi-final set for later this afternoon.

For English, going in the first of seven 800m heats, with only the top two to certain to go through, tactics were always going to be paramount: although he looked to have given himself a bit of work to do - still sitting in fourth on the bell lap - he suddenly shifted gear and swept past Thijmen Kupers from The Netherlands, winning in 1:48.10.

“The plan was to sit on the leader, but it went out a little too fast, I knew that, so I decided to sit back,” said English. “There was no point in me going out in 24 seconds, because I knew those guys would come back, in the last 200m.


"But I had a good acceleration, coming off the second last bend. It's harder to do that, coming off a faster pace, but I was able to guy by (Thijmen) Kupers, with ease, who is a World Championship finalist, so that's a good sign."

English will now go into tomorrow's semi-finals eying up a place in Sunday's final, as will Declan Murray, who survived a more war-like heat to also nail down one of the automatic qualifying spots, finishing second in 1:49.69.

It was close, however, as Poland's Karol Konieczny effectively fell across the line to win, in 1:49.65, as he was taken out down by Andreas Rapatz from Austria, who had looked to poised to qualify in second, before also coming down. Murray held his nerve on the outside, and held off Britain's James Bowness, and with that also guaranteed his semi-final berth.

There was a slightly nervous wait for Ciara Everard after she finished third in her 800m heat, despite running an impressive season best of 2:02.69. Again, only the top two were guaranteed, plus the fourth fastest losers, and it turned out that Everard was the second best of those - and like English and Murray is now eyeing up a place in Sunday's final.

Perhaps the most impressive performance of the morning came from Kervick, who was making his senior international debut, but again looked the part when winning his heat in 47.03: “It’s early in the morning, and I felt a little groggy, but delighted with the win and very much looking forward the semi-final final now.”

So the only Irish athlete not to qualify from the morning session was Gerard O’Donnell in the 60m hurdles, who ended up sixth in 8.06 seconds, down on his season best of 7.83, which in fact would have seen him through.