English closes in on Olympic spot with new junior record
ONE of the youngest Irish athletes to compete in this year's Olympic Games could yet be rising Donegal star Mark English, who underlined his talent with an impressive 800m Irish junior record run in Oordegem, Belgium, last weekend.
The Letterkenny teenager, who had already qualified for the World Junior Championships in Barcelona next month, knocked over a second off his previous mark (1:47.09) when he won in 1:45.77.
That time was just one-tenth of a second off the Olympic 'A' standard (1:45.60) and also relegated no less than Marcus O'Sullivan (1:45.86) to sixth on the all-time Irish list, with only Dave Matthews, James McIlroy, Tom Chamney and Dave Campbell ever faster.
Getting the time for London will probably necessitate English getting into some sub-1:44 races and they have put out some feelers to see what turns up, but his coach Teresa McDaid stressed they will not go chasing times as the World Junior Championships remains the 19-year-old's main target.
English is part of the impressive new wave of Donegal middle-distance talent who are lifting the national standard.
Tir Chonaill AC's Karl Griffin (16), coached by Eamonn Harvey, broke English's Irish youth record with his 1:49.63 at the IMC in Greystones last week.
Meanwhile, fears about David Gillick's fitness continue after the world 400m finalist, who was due to start his Olympic qualification bid in Geneva tomorrow having struggled recently with injury, pulled out with a niggle.
Most of Ireland's other top sprinters are racing in Geneva, while the Irish women's 4x400m team race in Bydgoszcz on Sunday.
They need a top-12 ranking to make the Olympics and their current two-run aggregate of 6:58.73 makes them 12th, ahead of France (6:59.15) and Turkey (6:59.54).
Also on Sunday, Kelly Proper competes in the long jump in Switzerland.
Meanwhile, the Aviva All-Ireland Schools Championships take place in Tullamore tomorrow. Among the rising stars on show will be Kate Veale (St Augustin's, Dungarvan), Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner (Colaiste Iosogain) and Alice Akers (Scariff CC).