Saturday 19 October 2019

Beaming Mageean ready for whatever final throws her way

 

Ciara Mageean. Photo: Sportsfile
Ciara Mageean. Photo: Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy in Doha

The plan is simple - one Ciara Mageean could easily complicate - but when the stakes are this high, her rivals this good, the best approach is to keep it simple: "I'm going to give it everything."

She is talking about the biggest race of her career, the 1500m final at the World Championships in Doha, which goes to the line at 6.55pm Irish time today.

Twelve of the best metric milers in the world: Olympic champions, world champions, European champions. And then Mageean, a 27-year-old who grew up juggling athletics with camogie, the sport she credits for honing the sharp elbows she will need to navigate a 1500m race at this level.

"The women's 1500m is red-hot, anyone toeing that line knows that," she said. "It's the flipping era to be running 15s but they have to respect me too. You have to battle your life out to get past me."

It's the way she has always run, ever since she burst on the scene in 2008 and shook up the established order in Irish middle-distance running by winning the national indoor title ahead of senior internationals Rose-Anne Galligan and Kerry O'Flaherty. She was 15, a snapshot of a sublime talent who could, one day, shine on the global stage.

And now she has that chance, courtesy of a cool, confident performance to book her place here on Thursday night. She hit the line in the semi-final in 4:15.49 to take fifth and the reaction was an outpouring of pure, unfiltered joy. After her heat Mageean needed several minutes before she could answer some questions, having to empty her stomach in a nearby bin, but this time there was no delay. She bounded into the mixed zone and offered hugs to anyone half-familiar before expressing her joy at joining Sonia O'Sullivan as the only Irish female athlete to reach a world 1500m final.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic," she beamed. "I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight but I'm in a world final. That's top 12 in the world and everything after this is a bonus. This is a major step for me getting ready for Tokyo 2020."

It was the antithesis of the Mageean we'd seen before, the times when her health had abandoned her on the big stage. She is in her prime now, stronger physically, tougher mentally, but this will be bigger than all that came before. What will her plan be?

"If they throw a slow pace at me I'm ready, a fast pace at me I'm ready," she said. "I'm going to run the race that's in front of me and I'm going to battle to the line, every bloody position that's going to be there. I'm going to give it everything."

She will likely walk out to a packed stadium, with last night showing a major improvement on the poor crowds seen earlier in the week. Those who came were treated to a show, with USA's Dalilah Muhammad breaking her own world record to win gold in the 400m hurdles in 52.16 ahead of rising star Sydney McLaughlin.

There was an even closer finish in the men's 3000m steeplechase when reigning champion Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya produced a stunning comeback from injury to edge gold by a hundredth of a second in 8:01.35 from Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma. Steven Gardiner took 400m gold in a Bahamian record of 43.48.

  • Women's World 1500m final, Live, BBC 1, circa 6.55pm

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