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Healy steps up to mark

Sprinter delivers in quarter-final


SPEED MERCHANT: Irish runner Phil Healy. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SPEED MERCHANT: Irish runner Phil Healy. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SPEED MERCHANT: Irish runner Phil Healy. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Phil Healy delivered a courageous performance at the World Indoor Championships yesterday, becoming the first Irish athlete to make it past the first round at these championships in eight years.

The 23-year-old Bandon sprinter lined up in lane six of her 400m heat at Arena Birmingham, with two athletes of international renown drawn alongside in Jamaica's Stephenie Ann McPherson and Britain's Eilidh Doyle, but if Healy felt the fear of their presence, she did it anyway, scorching through the opening lap in 24.03.

That was a half a second faster than Healy had ever run the first half of a 400m, but she was aware that to win big, she had to gamble. "I knew I had the speed to get to the bell first and that's what I did, I had to do it," she said.

Healy knew that being in their company at her first major global championships could inspire a big performance.

"The standard is so high," she said. "It has its pros and cons and the pro is that it pulls you through. Being in with these girls helps me to step up."

All the same, she faced the consequences of her fast start in the final 100m as McPherson and Doyle came charging past. "The second quickest I've ever gone through is 24.5, so it does bite that little bit more," she said.

With only two automatic spots on offer for last night's semi-final, Healy had to fight overwhelming fatigue all the way to the line, which she crossed in 52.75, enough to take one of the six non-automatic spots.

No such joy, however, for Amy Foster, whose exit in the heats of the women's 60m in 7.35 was not bad in any way, but nor was it particularly good, at least when you've rocked an Irish record of 7.27 in recent weeks.

In yesterday's heat, Foster blasted from the blocks in impressive style, and through the opening 20 metres she led double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, but she was soon swallowed up by the pack, coming home fifth in 7.35 in a race won by Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast in 7.17.

She said: "It's not a bad run, just not what I was looking for. I've had really good races this year but that was probably one of my worst."

Ciara Neville, 18, finished seventh in the first heat of the women's 60m, the Limerick sprinter clearly disappointed with her time of 7.47.

Ben Reynolds will take to the track this evening as the last Irish competitor, the 27-year-old going in heat two of the men's 60m hurdles at 6:37pm.