Inspired and inspirational: Ciara Mageean setting sights on Sonia's 1500m record

Portaferry athlete Ciara Mageean helping Lidl Ireland celebrate the launch of ‘Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories Of Irish Sportswomen’, the first ever collection of stories about Ireland’s most accomplished sportswomen. The book is available exclusively in all Lidl stores across the island of Ireland until Sunday September 6.

TWO out of three ain’t bad – in fact, they’ve been world class. Ciara Mageean laughed ruefully about yesterday’s media call coming after the only disappointing outing among her recent performances, but she remains confident in her ability to outdo one of her sporting inspirations.

The Portaferry athlete has Sonia O’Sullivan’s Irish 1500m record in her sights, which will involve breaking four minutes for the first time.

Having become the first Irish woman to go under two minutes for 800m, the 28-year-old definitely has the belief that she can achieve more and better over the rest of this season – and at next year’s Olympics.

Sunday past in Stockholm brought a setback, a 12th place finish in a field of 14 in the 1500m, in a time 11 seconds slower than required to break four minutes, and 10 seconds behind her personal best.

However, although she’ll analyse what went wrong in the Swedish capital, she still remembers her 800m run in Bern just over a month ago, and her Irish 1000m record set in Monaco in the middle of this month.

Asked if she’s aiming for Sonia’s 1500m time of 3.58.85 set just over a quarter-century ago, Mageean replies:

“Most definitely. I have a lot of confidence off the back of those two races and how I felt in them…

“I find that looking at the clock can weigh me down sometimes, I just try to race and be competitive and then the times will come. But those races showed me that, yeah, that four-minute barrier is getting closer and closer and I believe I can go under four – and I have a little eye on Sonia’s record.

“I didn’t go into those races trying to beat the national record, I just wanted to run hard, and I’ll continue with that ethos. But the belief is there that I can go under four and I can go even faster – I only wish there was an extra 500 in Monaco!

“I really want to get out and do a fast 1500 – I know there’s a big race in me.”

With the Olympics postponed until 2021 due to the Covid-19 crisis, Ciara comments: “I would rather make the mistakes this year than next year.

“Obviously the last race, I’m bitterly disappointed with it, and I’ll have to come to the conclusions and reasons for why that performance happened. But the previous two races knitted together so perfectly that I know I can do that again.

“I’ll keep working to hone my athletic prowess so that is what happens whenever Ciara steps on the track.”

Those runs in Bern and Monaco have confirmed her self-belief rather than boosted it, as she explains:

“It’s been a really interesting month of racing for me. I’ve always believed that I could compete with the best in the world, that’s something I’ve always brought into my athletics from I was a young age.

“But a lot of the time there’s the sense that you can only justify that [belief] by performances – and my performances up to that point didn’t show that I could be top five in the world necessarily, even though I believed that one day I could.

“Those two races – not Stockholm, unfortunately – showed me myself that actually, yes, the physical proof is there.

“It also probably shook a few cages and set the cat among the pigeons with a few athletes to make them think, ‘My goodness, Ciara’s a threat, we can’t take her for granted anymore’. That reassured me that the thing I’ve believed all along, there’s actual, tangible proof that I can be up there along with the best in the world.”

Helping to celebrate the launch of ‘Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen’, the first ever collection of stories about Ireland’s most accomplished sportswomen, which is exclusively available at Lidl Ireland stores, Ciara acknowledges the role O’Sullivan played:

“Ever since I started my athletic career people couldn’t help bringing up Sonia’s name alongside mine and draw comparisons, so I’ve been very used to that from I was no age.

“Now as I draw closer and closer to her senior records it doesn’t come actually as too much of a shock to me. I would never have drawn those comparisons myself, I’d always have looked up to Sonia and seen her performances as inspirational.

“She was a huge inspiration, to know that an Irish woman was up there with the best in the world and that she was a force to be reckoned with in world athletics – I want to be in that position as well. To see a fellow Irish woman having done that only gives you strength to try and take those steps yourself. She forged the path and I’m trying to follow in her footsteps.

“When Sonia tweets when I get one of her records it’s quite humbling because she’s an idol of mine.”

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