Saturday 19 October 2019

Mageean marches on as cloud hangs over rival

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

Cathal Dennehy

Lining up at the World Championships is hard enough as it is, but for Ciara Mageean yesterday's 1500m heat brought increased scrutiny.

Mageean squared off against Sifan Hassan, the Dutch star who is running under a cloud of suspicion after her coach Alberto Salazar was banned for four years earlier this week for multiple anti-doping violations.

Top six was the goal to book her place in today's semi-final, and it was a target the 27-year-old never looked like missing. She coasted in the slipstream of the leaders through the opening laps, running with an authority and confidence that was appropriate to her form this year.

Hassan coasted to victory in a facile 4:03.88, but Mageean was only a few ticks behind, fifth in 4:04.18. But how did it feel to run against an athlete under such suspicion?

"Look, I came out here to run my race as Ciara Mageean, it doesn't matter what happens left or right and what those girls are doing or aren't doing. I know I'm a clean athlete and that's all I concern myself with."

Some of Mageean's rivals weren't so diplomatic about Salazar.

"Get him out," said Jenny Simpson of USA, the 2011 world 1500m champion. "If you cheat, you get banned and I'm a believer in lifetime bans. I wish it was longer. Anybody that knows anything about this sport knows there's a black shadow over that group."

Jamaican 1500m runner Aisha Praught-Leer also vented her anger. "Yesterday was a celebratory day. Justice has been served," she remarked.

Mageean is again drawn alongside Hassan in tonight's semi-final, which goes to the line at 9pm Irish time, and while it will be a much stiffer task, she believes she's capable of a top-five finish to advance.

"I'll get myself into a good competitive position and keep something for the last 100 because that's where the race is won and lost," she said. "The plan is to make that final and that's what I'm aiming to do."

It's been a superb season to date for the two-time European medallist, Mageean running the second fastest mile in history by an Irishwoman when clocking 4:19.03 in Monaco, going through 1500m in a PB of 4:01.21. "I got a fantastic block of training in since and to be honest, it was the most fun I've had doing athletics," she said.

Meanwhile, IAAF president Sebastian Coe criticised the BBC and Gabby Logan after the presenter questioned IAAF CEO Jon Ridgeon on the poor crowds and other issues in Doha. Coe said he had a "problem" with how the BBC portrayed the sport.

"It's very easy to sit there and make all sorts of Gabby Logan-type judgments over three or four days and clear off back to 'Match of the Day'. But it's really important that we see the long-term development of our sport."

Last night's action was highlighted by Dina Asher-Smith claiming the 200m title in a British record of 21.88.

Irish Independent

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