Ciara Mageean has become the first Irish female athlete to run under two minutes for the 800m.
In a significant milestone for both distance running in Ireland and her own career, the Portaferry athlete won the 800m in 1.59.69 at a track meeting in Bern, Switzerland in her first competitive race of the year.
Her time surpasses the existing Irish record of 2:00.58 which was set in London by Rose Anne Galligan in 2013. Mageean’s previous personal best for the two laps was 2:00.79 which she ran in Dublin in 2016.
The 28-year-old said she was "absolutely delighted" to set the new record and be the first Irish woman under two minutes in the 800m.
In a tweet she added: "With the disappointment if everything this year, Olympics postponed and lockdown for months, my coach, my team mates and I put our heads down and worked hard. Devastated I won’t run for Ireland this year but I’ll continue to work and build for 2021 and beyond."
Mageean's new Irish record came on the same day as the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics was supposed to be held before the Games were postponed for a year due to Covid-19.
So instead of being in Japan, Mageean – who is based in Manchester – has been training at altitude in the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz in recent weeks. This was her first competitive event in five months but despite the lockdown her form has stayed consistent.
In the 1500m final at the World championships in Doha last autumn she ran a personal best time of 4:00.15 when finishing tenth behind controversial winners Sifan Hassan.
Olympic silver medallist Sonia O’Sullivan was among the first to congratulate Mageean on her breakthrough run.
In a tweet O’Sullivan said: "Congratulations first Irish woman sub 2mins for 800m . 2020 is a year to back yourself and just go for it."
Unfortunately for Mageean the European championship have also been cancelled this year along with the Olympic Games.
But she is likely to run at the Irish National championships where breaking her four-minute barrier for the 1500m will be a realistic goal.