Wednesday 16 October 2019

'For a wee girl from Portaferry, that's not too bad at all' - Ciara Mageean shines with World top ten finish

Ciara Mageean gestures to supporters after competing in the women’s 1500m final at the World Championships. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ciara Mageean gestures to supporters after competing in the women’s 1500m final at the World Championships. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

The performance was immaculate, executed to perfection by Ciara Mageean - the only pity was it arrived on a night when the world's best had ascended to a whole different plane.

Over the course of four frenetic minutes, she exhausted her energy reserves in Doha's Khalifa Stadium on Saturday night, crossing the line 10th in the world 1500m final in 4:00.15.

It was the fastest time of her career, a run the 27-year-old reflected on with a bright, beaming smile, deeming this her "best championships yet".

This from an athlete with two European 1500m medals sitting at home in Portaferry, Co Down, an athlete who has been in an Olympic semi-final, an athlete who knows how it felt - on so many occasions before - to fall short.

Of course, there will be no bugles, no drums when she arrives home. Medals are the only currency that counts in this sport, and while some championships are as weak as water and Ireland's best can grab the front pages with ease, this was the opposite.

This was a gathering of the world's best in a hyper-competitive event, a distance contested with genuine depth across every corner of the globe in a way only the 100 metres can compare.

Ciara Mageean of Ireland competing in the Women's 1500m Final during day nine of the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ciara Mageean of Ireland competing in the Women's 1500m Final during day nine of the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

And here was Mageean, in the top 10 of the whole damn lot. "For a wee girl from Portaferry, that's not too bad at all," she said.

And yet, nine seconds and nine places separated her from where she ultimately dreams of being.

Several minutes after the race, when Mageean had reached the very end of the mixed zone, I relayed the winning time of Sifan Hassan, the Dutch athlete who became the first athlete in history to win world titles at 1500m and 10,000m.

"Three fifty-one?" Mageean said, her eyes wide. "Hats off to her running that fast. That's an amazing time."

What made it all the more incredible was Hassan had done it alone, swooping to the front on the first lap and slowly squeezing the life out of her rivals, coming home all alone in a championship record of 3:51.95.

But Hassan couldn't outrun suspicion, given she had been coached by Alberto Salazar, the American who last week was banned for four years by the US Anti-Doping Agency for multiple anti-doping violations

"Fair play (to Hassan) for the time and for the double, that's an incredible thing to do," said Mageean.

When asked about the controversy of bringing the championships to Doha, Mageean didn't toe the line which many in the media had drawn.

"I feel it's fair that every part of the world gets represented," she said. "I've enjoyed my experience here." She was less pleased about comments by IAAF President Sebastian Coe, who said "athletes talking about externalities are probably not the ones who are going to be walking home with medals".

"Not all of us are going to medal," said Mageean. "It doesn't mean we're not as important as the ones standing on the podium.

"Every one of us is an important voice. I didn't think that comment was too fair.

"Equally I've enjoyed competing here," she added.

"I'm not complaining about competing here, hopefully this raises a little bit of support for female sport in Qatar.

"I'd love to see this have an impact and hopefully seeing me race on the world stage has had an impact on kids at home as well."

After her best week in an Irish vest, that was undeniable.

Irish Independent

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