Mark English through to semi-finals of the 800m in Beijing

Things didn’t go entirely to plan for UCD student in World Championships opener

Mark English through to the semi-finals of the 800m in Beijing. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

Mark English through to the semi-finals of the 800m in Beijing. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

 

Things didn’t go entirely to plan for Mark English in the opening session of the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, although after a slightly anxious wait, he found himself safely through to the semi-finals of the 800 metres.

It was, as expected, extremely competitive. Running in the third of six heats, English needed to finish in the top three to earn automatic qualification – or else rely on being one of the six fastest-losers.

English certainly ran with that intention, positioning himself in third place during the opening lap, passed in 52.52 seconds; still holding third into the homestretch, he was then passed by Amel Tuka from Bosnia, and Nader Belhanbel from Morocco, and so ended up fifth, clocking 1:46.69.

That left the UCD medical student the second fastest-loser, at the time, and although two more times eclipsed that in the fourth heat, English was still safe with his 1:46.69. The American Erik Sowinski also progressed from fourth place with, his 1:46.39 – with Tuka taking the win in 1:46.12. Indeed English ended up ranked 12th fastest overall of the 16 athletes who went through to the semi-finals.

Those three 800m semi-finals are set for Sunday, at 1.15pm Irish time – where only the top two, plus the two fastest-losers, will progress to Tuesday’s final.

“I’m through to my first ever semi-final at a World Championships, and I’m delighted with that,” said English. “I was tying up a little, at the finish, but talking to some of the other athletes, a lot of them felt the same. I’d planned to go out fast, and pass the bell in about 52 seconds, knowing if you run 1:46 that will always give you a good chance of going through.

“So when I saw my time, I certainly didn’t panic, and reckoned it would be enough to see me through. I made sure I staying involved, stayed in contention. It’s all about running as fast as possible in the semi-final now. I’m excited to be there, and looking forward to giving it a bang.”

It’s been something of a rollercoaster season for English so far, and although he was caught a little for pure speed at the finish, making the semi-finals were the very least of his ambitions. Indeed his time was faster than some of the medal favourites, David Rudisha from Kenya winning the last heat in 1:48.31, while defending champion Mohammed Aman from Ethiopia clocked 1:47.87 when winning the first heat.

Earlier, the first gold medal of the championships, and indeed a first ever gold medal for Eritrea, went to the 19 year-old Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, who won the men’s marathon in 2:12:27. Ghebreslassie beat all the big favourites from Kenya and Ethiopia, with silver going to Yemane Tsegay from Ethiopia (2:13:08), while Solomon Mutai of Uganda took bronze (2:13:30).

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