English right at home on international stage
MARK ENGLISH put a difficult few weeks behind him on Friday night when he booked his ticket to the 800m at the World Championships in Moscow.
And what a stage to do it on. The Diamond League / Anniversary Games at London's Olympic Stadium, with the crowds flocking to see Usain Bolt return to his best, meant extra pressure on the Donegal athlete.
But English rose to the occasion and banished the disappointment of the European under 23s where he was expected to medal but didn't manage to get out of his heats. He had been ill in the run-up to the championships but still he was gutted.
English had bounced back just days later, running a personal best of 1.45.32 at the Morton Games in Dublin before coming through a big test of ability and character in London, finishing sixth in a strong international field in a time of 1:44.84, just two hundreths of a second outside the national record David Matthews set in 1995.
English relishes the tactical side of racing 800m, making the right calls is one of his strengths and on Friday night he did just that. "I love the unpredictably of the 800 metres," he said English. "And the tactics, you have to position yourself right in the last lap to make sure you run the shortest line possible.
"I try to streamline as much as I can. On Friday I said I'd try to sit off the early pace because that tactic seemed to work for me in the Morton Games."
English, who is coached by Teresa McDaid, is now only the second Irishman to ever run inside 1.45. His time also takes the pressure off for the National Championships in Santry today as, prior to this weekend, both English and Paul Robinson had the B standard for the World Championships in Moscow, but only one athlete could go on a B time. Now, with English running the A standard, it clears the way for both athletes to go. The team will be announced tomorrow.
The UCD student is also a strong 400m runner and at the European Championships he ran a 46.1 split in the 4x4 relay. He regularly runs the event to work on his speed for his main event, as he did yesterday in Santry at the National Championships and will run it again today in the final after winning his heat comfortably in a time of 49.89.
Before getting into athletics the Donegal man was a keen Gaelic footballer with his club Letterkenny Gaels. His favourite position was midfield because he enjoyed running and ultimately doing the work. "I loved it in the middle of the field; there was a lot of space so it suited a guy like me who had a lot of energy."
Last year he narrowly missed out on a place at the London Olympics, falling short of the A standard required by 17 hundredths of a second. He's moved on from the disappointment of it but all the same feels that he could have benefited from the experience.
"It would have been great to go, just to see what it was like living in the village and the atmosphere of the stadium," he said. "Things like that can really benefit young athletes, as we've seen so often in the past."
Although English is still only 20 he's already achieved considerable success. In 2010 he claimed the gold medal over 1,000 metres at the European Youth Olympic Trials in Moscow and last year he finished fifth in the World Junior Championships behind Nijel Amos and Timothy Kitum, who both went on to win medals in the 800m at the London Olympic Games.
He wasn't the only athlete to shine on Friday night; Kildare's Roseanne Galligan ran a personal best of of 2.00.58, smashing Sonia O'Sullivan's 800m national record in the process.