Monday 18 November 2019

English sets his sights on Moscow after marvellous Morton run

Team Ireland's Mark English
Team Ireland's Mark English

Athletics Cliona Foley

AFTER the heartbreak of missing out on the London Olympics by just 17 hundredths of a second, rising Letterkenny 800m star Mark English (UCD) is hoping that his brilliant run at the Morton Games will get him into the World Championships.

His time of 1:45:32 was not just a stadium record; it was just two hundredths of a second off of the 'A' standard for Moscow next month (August 10-18).

It moved the 20-year-old up to joint second on the Irish all-time list, equalling the time run by James McIlroy in Nice in 1998, and consigned Thomas Chamney (1:45.41) and David Campbell (1:45.59) to fourth and fifth respectively.

David Matthews (currently the fitness trainer for the Cork hurlers) still holds the Irish record of 1:44.82, which he set in 1995.

The Irish selectors are expected to pick young athletes with two 'B' standards for the world tests.

With the national championships in a week's time (July 27/28) and the selection deadline on July 29, English (below) is hoping to get into one other high-quality race beforehand.

Conditions on Wednesday night were practically Mediterranean and conducive to a fast time. But he confessed to being "completely shocked" at his brilliantly judged run, particularly because he has been struggling this summer after illness and had failed to qualify out of his 800m heats at the European U-23 Championships six days beforehand.

"I got an infection (chest) four weeks before Europeans and didn't run a step for two weeks," he revealed.

Hopes were particularly high that the rangey Donegal lad would win a medal in Finland as he finished fifth in the World Junior Championships last year.

Illness unfortunately put paid to that, but he noticeably ran a blistering 46.1 leg in the 4x400m relay two days later in Tampere.

"I reckon my competitive instinct kicked in," he said of his Santry heroics. "I just didn't want to lose to Paul Robinson or this new Irish guy" – a reference to American Declan Murray who is reportedly in the process of switching his allegiance to Ireland.

"I ran the 'B' standard three times last year and still didn't make it to London, which was tough, so, hopefully, this will get me to Moscow," he added.

Robinson, fourth in the European U-23 Championships 1500m final last week, knocked over a second off his 800m best when finishing fourth in 1:45:86 and Murray was eighth in 1:47.27.

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