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'I know I can compete with the world's best' insists Ciara Mageean

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Ciara Mageean at the launch of ‘Girls Play Too – Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen’

Ciara Mageean at the launch of ‘Girls Play Too – Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen’

Ciara Mageean at the launch of ‘Girls Play Too – Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen’

By any standard it was a spectacular case of bad timing. After a stellar summer in which she broke two long-standing Irish distance records, Ciara Mageean met the press 36 hours after an indifferent performance on Sunday.

But the Portaferry woman is blessed with a self-deprecating sense of humour which enabled her to wisecrack about it. More importantly, she has already absorbed the lessons of her below-par 1500m run in Stockholm.

"Sunday was an off day for me and it's often in hindsight you realise there are some indicators that showed I was a little off going into the race. I was on such a high off the back of the two previous performances that I didn't realise how much it had taken out of me, physically and emotionally," she said.

"Steve (Vernon, her coach) has made me a consistent athlete. I've had fantastic consistency going there. I just didn't recover quite as quickly as I hoped. To be honest, this year is a blessing in disguise. I'm learning lessons about myself and my trade. I'd rather make these mistakes this year.

Accident

"Nothing happens by accident in this sport. I'll continue to learn, and my plans will be tweaked. Myself and my coach will sit down and know what the next 12 months will entail. Nothing will be left to chance."

After a short break Mageean plans to run in three more races in Ostrava, Berlin, and Rome before the end of the track season. "I really want a chance to race a good, fast 1500m," she said

She also plans to run in the European cross-country in Dublin in December - if it goes ahead. Last year in Lisbon she helped the Irish women's team win a silver medal. Last month in Bern, Switzerland, Mageean made a spectacular seasonal debut when she became the first Irish woman to dip under two minutes for the 800m (1:59.69)

"It was something special. I dropped down from altitude the day before, a first for me. I knew I was in good shape, but I didn't know what to expect."

She didn't celebrate at the finish because she was scared the organisers would round up the clock causing her to miss out on the historic time.

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"It was a massive moment in my athletics career. It's been on my list for years and I finally ticked it off. Now I just want to go faster, and it helps me to get into more top-class 800m races as well that in the past people would think I was too slow for."

Though she reached last year's 1500m final at the World Championships in Doha, her performances this summer have established her as a world-class middle-distance runner.

The 28-year-old has harboured this ambition throughout her career. "My performances up to that point didn't show I could be top five in the world even though I believed I could.

"The races (the 800m and 1000m) showed me the physical proof is there. It sets the cat among the pigeons with some athletes. They realise Ciara is a threat. We can't take her for granted any more. It reassured me everything I believed for so long, that I can be up there competing with the best in the world. It's given me a lot of strength. I know I can do that again and I'll keep working to hone my athletics prowess to make sure that is what happens every time Ciara steps on the track."

Though her goal is to race rather than aim for times, she believes she can break the four-minute barrier for the 1500m before the season ends.

"I'll have an eye on Sonia's record. (O'Sullivan's record is 3:58.85). The belief is there in me than I can go under four. I only wish there was another 500m off the back in Monaco," said Mageean, referring to when she set the new 1000m Irish record of 2:31.06 earlier this month.

She is used to being compared to O'Sullivan though when she was growing up it was hurlers and camogie players rather than the Cobh athlete she watched. "She forged a path and I'm trying to follow in her footsteps. It makes me very chuffed to see Sonia tweet after I got a record, she's an idol of mine."

Like many of her contemporaries Mageean is wearing carbon-plated spikes this season. "On Sunday, I saw having them on your feet doesn't mean you'll run fast. I think it has less of an effect on the track as it does not the roads. We're seeing less of a jump in personal best and performances.

Impact

"People say they're making a big impact whereas the athletes are still training hard and they're making the improvements."

She believes it is an exciting time to be an athlete. She shares a house in Manchester with other international runners and the new spikes - which Mageean wore for the first time in Bern - are the subject of much discussion.

"I feel my performances were down to my own physical improvements as opposed to the spikes."

She hasn't been home to her beloved Portaferry since February when, ironically, she was recovering from a virus.

She is particularly looking forward to seeing her father's new puppy for the first time when she returns in late September.

The world and her world have changed irrevocably in the interim.

  • Lidl Ireland ambassador Ciara Mageean celebrates the launch of 'Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen', the first ever collection of stories about Ireland's most accomplished sportswomen written by RTÉ broadcaster Jacqui Hurley. The book is available exclusively in the retailer's 163 stores across the country for €12.99

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