Mark English into 800m final in Zurich

Christine McMahon dodges the drama to progress to 400m hurdles semi-finals

Donegal's Mark English qualified for the 800m final at the European Championships in Zurich, with a fourth place finish in the first semi-final this evening.

The Irishman improved on Tuesday’s 1:47.39 with a run of 1:46.23 but had to wait to learn his fate after being edged into the fourth from second by Artur Kuciapski of Poland (1:46.05) and Switzerland’s Andreas Bube (1:46.09). France’s Pierre-Ambriose Boose led all the way and won in a time of 1:45.94.

English admitted afterwards that he “tied up a bit” towards the end of the race and had never been as nervous as he was beforehand.

“I’m just happy I made the final. It’s my first major final.”


Earlier, Christine McMahon provided a timely reminder of the perils of racing over the 400m hurdles – qualifying for her semi-finals, thanks in part to a couple of dramatic mishaps amongst her opponents.

Running in the second heat – with only the first three sure of progressing – McMahon first saw one of her rivals, Denmark’s Sara Peterson, disqualified for a false start (much to her obvious disappointment): then, coming into the final hurdle, Hanna Ryzhykova from Ukraine, who was ahead of McMahon, tripped and fell – literally breaking the hurdle in the process – and at the same time very nearly taking out McMahon.

So ended Ryzhykova’s hopes of qualifying, and although McMahon was then passed by the Swiss Petra Fontaine before the line, she still held on for third, clocking 57.16 seconds, and with that the 22 year-old from Ballymena went through to tomorrow evening’s semi-final. Vera Barbosa from Portugal won the heat in 55.85 seconds.

"I'm delighted to go through," said McMahon. "I didn't have a great race in the Commonwealth Games, and that was a definitely better. But I can't say I've had that much drama in the one race before. A false start, yes. And an athlete crashing into a hurdle, yes. But not all in the same race, and me nearly being taken out with her."

Thomas Barr fell just short of making the final of the 400 metres hurdles in the evening session, his third place finish in the semi-final not enough to progress.

As expected it was desperately competitive, and not helped by a swirling wind inside the Letzigrund Stadium. Barr found himself with a little too much to do inside the last 50 metres, although his finishing time of 49.30 seconds was just down on the winner Kariem Hussein from Switzerland, who ran 49.16, with Serbia's World Championship bronze medallist Emir Berkic taking second in 49.21.

Only the top two were automatic qualifiers for Friday’s final, plus the two fastest losers, but Barr’s hopes were quickly dashed in the last of the three semi-finals, which was won in a very fast 48.54 by Rasmus Magi from Estonia, ahead of Timofey Chalyy from Russia, who ran 48.69, and indeed the two fastest losers came from that race, in third and fourth – with Felix Franz from Germany running 48.96, and Oskari Moro from Finland running 49.08.

Amy Foster also went out in her semi-final of the 100 metres, her 11.79 seconds only good enough for eighth on the night.

Brian Gregan ran a season’s best (45.81 seconds) in the men’s 400m but it was only good enough for sixth in the third and fastest heat.

Gregan’s time, in fact, would have won the first heat but four qualified from his, with winner Matthew Hudson-Smith (45.30) followed home by Belgian Jonathan Borlee (45.37), Donald Sanford of Israel (45.39) and Jakub Kerzwina (45.47).

Richard Morrissey finished last in the second heat, in a time of 46.64.