English determined to make light of injury-disrupted build-up
Published 12/08/2016 | 02:30
Four years after narrowly missing out on qualifying for the London Olympics, Mark English will make his debut in the 2016 Games in heat 6 of the 800m in the Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange at lunch-time today.
The 23-year-old medical student has had a less than ideal build-up. Earlier this year, while running in the grounds of UCD, he stepped into a pothole and suffered a stress fracture of a metatarsal bone.
The injury forced him to miss the World Indoor championships but more importantly meant that he missed a significant block of training in preparation for Rio.
English's potential is not in doubt, having won European medals in the 800m outdoor (2014) and indoor (2015), but his enforced lay-off could impact on his performance here.
Apart from veteran Pole Marcin Lewandowski - who won the European title in 2010 - none of his rivals in the heat look particularly imposing.
A top-three finish will guarantee the Donegal man a place in the semi-final and that's probably as much as can aspire to after his injury-disrupted season.
He posted a decent 1:45.36 time before departing for Rio - still well short of his personal best of 1:44.84.
Having made his return to competitive action at the National championships, where he won the 800m, English (left) opted not to travel to the European Championships in Amsterdam in order to focus on Rio.
Four years ago, when he failed by 0.17 seconds to qualify for London 2012, he put a picture of Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue on the wall of his dorm room in UCD and promised himself that he would make the Olympic start line.
Meanwhile, race walker Alex Wright makes his Olympic debut for Ireland in the 20km walk today (6.30pm). Born in London, he switched allegiance to Ireland after competing for his native country in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
He re-located to Cork, where he is coached by Ireland's 50km Olympic bronze medallist Rob Heffernan - who is competing in the longer event in Rio.
The Chinese and Japanese, together with Spain's Miguel Angel Lopez, a surprise winner at the World championships in Beijing last year, are likely to dominate the race.