Phil Healy runs a PB but just misses out on a medal in Poland

400m time of 51.94 would have been enough for podium in last five Indoor Championships

You know what they say about finals and Phil Healy made every possible move to make a medal happen in the 400 metres, only to fall just short in a suitably thrilling race at the European Indoor Championships.

Healy came to Torun, Poland knowing she’d need to run the race of her life to have any hope of winning a medal in what is among the most competitive events: the Cork woman ran the fastest of her life alright, improving her best to 51.94 seconds, and still ended up fourth behind a new European lead of 50.63 by Dutch gold medal winner Femke Bol.

Healy’s 51.94 would have won a medal in the previous five editions of these championships, only this was a truly competitive race: though just turned 21, Bol is considered the new star of Dutch athletes, with silver medal going to the experienced Polish runner Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, running at home, who clocked 51.41.

Bronze went to the fast-finishing British runner Jodie Williams, her 51.73 also a lifetime best, and who got past the other Dutch runner Lieke Klaver, as did Healy, in the last 30m; unfortunately Healy just ran out of track.

“To be just short of a medal, and be so close, is disappointing, but it’s a European final, it’s a fourth place, it’s a PB, I can’t ask for anymore. Coming into a final is bonus territory, and I’m buzzing, to come away with that performance in that world-class field, I’m thrilled.”

As ever it was a race of two halves, the break after 200m proving crucial: Healy out superbly well but was caught a little as two women came on her inside, with Bol passing from the outside, having started in lane.

“I always knew it was going to be close at the bell,” addedHealy, “and maybe I should have pushed that little bit more, to get myself into a better position. But I’m really happy how I finished, you win some, you learn from some more, and to come away with fourth in a European final I’m thrilled.”

Indeed fourth place will give the 26-year-old year further ranking points towards Tokyo Olympic qualification later this summer, with her place in both the 200m and 400m now a possibility.

Mark English

Earlier in Saturday's evening session another medal hope in Mark English made his exit in the brutally tough 800m semi-finals, where only the top two across three races made it to Sunday's final.

The three-time medal winner, including bronze from Glasgow two years ago, adopted coy tactics in trying to come from behind, which has often served him so well in the past, only not quite this time, as English ended up fourth in 1:48.99, the win there going to 2017 World Champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse in 1:47.86.

“I went back to see what worked for me in the past, like in the European final in 2014,” said English. “I tried to go out yesterday and stay on the leader’s shoulders but that didn’t work.. Look it wasn’t to be today. I only came here to get some experience for Tokyo. At the end of this year, that’s all that anyone will be talking about.”

Longford Leaving-Cert Cian McPhillips was mixing it with some of the big men of 800m running in his semi-final, the 18-year-old finding himself part of a crazy fasts race that passed 400m 50:82; undaunted, McPhillips remained composed throughout before also taking fourth in 1:48.06, the win there going to Poland’s Mateusz Borroski in 1:45.79, a personal best.

For McPhillips, making his first senior championship appearance, there was also the consolation of a new European Under-20 record, not the fastest of his life, though for European Record purposes the times must be delivered where there are also anti-doping controls.

Nadia Power also fell short of her quest to make the women's 800m final, hitting the front at the bell and with that certainly imposing herself on the field, before dropping back to finish fourth 2:04.04; like the men, only the top two made Sunday's final, her semi-final won by Poland's Angelika Cichocka in 2:03.18, setting up a fascinating British-Polish final showdown, as Britain managed to get three athletes into the six-woman final.

“I wanted to run to my strength to hit it hard in the middle of the race,” said Power. “I have no regrets. It didn’t work today but at least I was brave and went for it. It has still been a great season and I have learned a lot.

“I am super proud: it would have been nice to get to a European final. I wasn’t even going to do the European Indoors up until the end of January, then I decided I would, as the goal was always the Olympics. I learned a lot and it was good to do a senior championship. I’m super disappointed today and it’s going to be difficult to take a break as I want to get back training again and prepare for the summer.”

Earlier on Saturday, lifetime best times for both Sarah Lavin and Séan Tobin did see them progress. Lavin came to Poland on the back of two personal bests in the 60 metres hurdles run in quick succession, and the Limerick athlete improved on that again when running 8.06 seconds to take place and an automatic qualifying place.

Tobin also booked his place in Sunday’s 3,000m final after running a lifetime best of 7:47.71 in his heat, improving on the 7:48.01 he’d run last month, the now sixth fastest time ever run by an Irish man. In what turned out to be the fastest of the three heats, the Clonmel runner placed fifth, victory going to Britain’s Andy Butchart in 7:46.46, which was enough to see the 26-year-old Tobin through as one of the fastest-losing times.