It had been a forgettable, frustrating start for the Irish at the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul yesterday, and that trend continued on day two, with a raft of sub-par performances on Friday morning amid the occasional ray of light.
n the women’s 400m heats, Sharlene Mawdsley’s run fell into both categories, her performance far from what she wanted, but ultimately providing what she needed, advancing her to Friday evening’s semi-finals, where the Newport native has a gilt-edged chance to reach a European final.
Mawdsley was ranked first in her heat based off her season’s best of 51.91, and drew the favourable lane six as a result, but at the pivotal halfway mark, as athletes broke from lanes, she hesitated and allowed Austria’s Susanne Gogl-Walli to seize command, a lead that was never relinquished. A failed attempt to pass on the final bend cost Mawdsley more time, and while the Austrian hit the line in 52.34, Mawdsley stayed strong in behind to take the second automatic spot, clocking 52.59.
“It was not what I set out to do, I set out to win, but I didn’t and it was a bit of inexperience on my part,” she said. “I was planning to get to the lead and I should have kicked off the bend a bit more, I didn’t, but that was my mistake and I have to learn from it.”
Mawdsley has a great chance to put what she learned to immediate use, having drawn lane three in this evening’s semi-final. While Dutch star Femke Bol should coast to victory in that race, Mawdsley is good enough to make the top three and advance, but it will take something more. “I have to go out later and fight for my life,” she said. “I’ll be gunning for glory.”
Irish teammate Sophie Becker was also the victim of indecision at the break and it may well have cost the Wexford native a place in the semi-final, with Becker finishing third in 53.43. “It could have been better, I’m disappointed with it,” she said. “The girl in lane three came up on my inside at the break and I should have ploughed through a bit and instead I took the foot off the gas. That was the big error and it was hard to come back from that. I have the relay on Sunday with the girls, so, redemption.”
Cliodhna Manning ran an indoor personal best in the final heat of 54.21, and while qualification was never truly on the cards for the Kilkenny athlete after drawing the difficult lane two, she’ll likely be back on track on Sunday for the 4x400m relay. “It was okay, kind of as expected,” she said. “I want to run faster but this is where I’m at right now, and I’ll move forward from here.”
Joan Healy cut a dejected figure after a below-par run in the 60m heats, the Cork sprinter clocking 7.41 to finish fifth, her frustration only heightened by the knowledge that her season’s best of 7.30 would have seen her advance with ease.
“I’m disgusted by that performance,” she said. “While I’m happy to be here, I expected to beat my PB today and a qualifying spot was well within my capabilities. The race got away from me at the start, I didn’t react, and I was trying to pull it back up the track but in a 60m, that’s a Hail Mary. I’ll go back into a block of training now. The 60m used to be my favourite race, now it’s too short for me and hopefully I can carry the speed through to the 100m and come away with faster times in the summer.”
In the pentathlon, Kate O’Connor capped a decent morning with a personal best in the shot put, the Dundalk multi-events star throwing 14.37m, which moved her up to eighth place after three of the five events.
She started her day with a clocking of 8.56 in the 60m hurdles and cleared 1.74m in the high jump, helping her to a current tally of 2709 points, with Belgium’s two-time Olympic champion Nafi Thiam leading the way with 3106.
European Indoor Championships: Live, RTÉ 2, 4.0pm; BBC 2, 3.30pm; European Athletics Website, 4pm.
Irish in action today (all times Irish)
Kate O’Connor, pentathlon long jump, 4.10pm; pentathlon 800m, 6.05pm
Sharlene Mawdsley, women’s 400m semi-finals, 5.03pm
Luke McCann, men’s 1500m final, 5.40pm