English edges closer to his Olympic qualification with runners-up spot in Madrid

Letterkenny athlete Mark English bagged valuable World Ranking points for his 800m runners-up finish in Madrid on Saturday to keep his Olympic dream alive

LETTERKENNY man Mark English edged a little closer to Olympic selection with a fine runner-up spot in the 800m at the World Athletics Continental Tour silver meeting in Madrid on Saturday evening. Although narrowly missing the Olympic standard of 1:45.20, by just two-hundredths of a second, English bagged valuable points in the World Rankings to claim almost certainly his seat on the plane to Japan.

The three-time European Championships medallist followed up his victory in Sweden the previous weekend with another solid performance, losing out to the Netherlands athlete Tony Van Diepen in a close finish by five-hundredths of a second. English’s 1:45.22 clocking was his fastest time since 2014. His personal best of 1:44.84 was set in London the previous year.

English will now focus on next weekend’s national senior championships at Morton Stadium in Dublin. Currently listed 39th in the World Rankings with 48 places available in Tokyo, the 28-year-old Finn Valley athlete may decide to sit rather than twist by dropping down to the 400m. In doing this he would also put himself in contention for Ireland’s mixed 4 x 400m relay team that qualified for the Olympics recently at the World Relays in Poland.

Sarah Lavin also looks to have assured herself of an Olympic spot after breaking the 13-second barrier for the first time in the 100m hurdles at the Madrid meeting. The Emerald AC athlete whacked almost a quarter of a second off her personal best with a 12.95 seconds timing, only the second Irish woman to go under 13 seconds following Derval O’Rourke who holds the national record with a 12.65 mark.

France's Cyrena Samba-Mayela was the winner of the race in 12.80 seconds as the first four all went under 13 seconds. Lavin was given the same time as third-placer Italian Elisa Maria Di Lazzaro. Despite her personal best, Lavin still remains outside the top 40 who will qualify for Tokyo although her position may be improved with valuable points on offer at the national championships. However, the 12.84 Olympic standard may be beyond her grasp against domestic opposition.

Unfortunately, Eilish Flanagan did not enjoy the best of luck in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. Added to the field at the eleventh hour following her Irish record over 2000m steeplechase the previous weekend, the Tyrone athlete took a tumble mid-race. Nevertheless, the Omagh Harrier picked herself up to finish fifth in 9:48.84. Spain’s Carolina Robles won the race in a meeting record of 9:34.30 and was the only woman under the Olympic mark of 9:40. Flanagan remains just outside the top 50 in the World Rankings with 45 Olympic spots on offer.

Elsewhere Ryan Crouser toppled the men's shot put world record with a 23.37m throw on the first night of the US Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. The 28-year-old reigning Olympic champion exceeded fellow American Randy Barnes' previous record of 23.12m, which had stood for more than 30 years. A native of Oregon, it was fitting that Crouser give the newly renovated Hayward Field facility its first-ever world record.

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