Sport

Disappointment for Irish duo as European Indoor Athletics Championships begin

Mark English (centre) was forced to withdraw from the 800m heats due to illness on day one of the European Indoor Athletics Championship in Turkey
Mark English (centre) was forced to withdraw from the 800m heats due to illness on day one of the European Indoor Athletics Championship in Turkey

THE 2023 European Indoor Athletics Championships continue on Friday after some preliminary action yesterday in the splendid newly-refurbished Atakov Arena, Istanbul.

More than 600 athletes from 51 European countries have come to compete in the championships which continue until Sunday.

The entry lists include seven reigning Olympic champions from Tokyo 2020, as well as 18 individual gold medallists from the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships.

The seven Olympic champions due to compete are Lamont Marcell Jacobs (60m), Karsten Warholm (400m), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (1500/3000m), Miltiadis Tentoglou (long jump) and Pedro Pichardo (triple jump) on the men’s side and Malaika Mihambo (long jump) and Nafissatou Thiam (pentathlon) among the women.

Ireland has sent a team of 12 individual athletes and a women’s 4x400m squad but Thursday saw two medal hopes fall at the first hurdle during the opening session of heats.

Mark English was expected to medal in the 800m but the Letterkenny man was unable to take his place on the start line due to illness.

In his absence all eyes turned to Andrew Coscoran, who broke the 41-year-old national 1500m record in Birmingham last weekend. But championship racing is a bird of another feather from glorified time trials and Coscoran never really measured up to the demands of a slow-run tactical race finishing fourth, one place outside an automatic qualifying place, in a modest 3:44.11 timing.

Ireland’s other representative in the event, Luke McCann showed much more craft. Knowing that he only had to run faster than his compatriot to give himself a route to the final, he took control at the front with 600m to run and forced the pace along. Although he was hauled in on the final lap, he still held on for fifth with his 3:41.51 giving him passage to tonight’s final as one of the non-automatic qualifiers.

Israel Olatunde has also written himself into the record books this winter and now appears Ireland’s best hope of a medal. He lines up in the 60m first round tomorrow morning. The women’s 4 x 400m squad could also go close to a podium place on Sunday afternoon.

Apart from McCann in the 1500m final, other Irish athletes in action today include Kate O’Connor (pentathlon), Sharlene Mawdsley/Sophie Becker/Cliodhna Manning (400m), Joan Healy/Molly Scott (60m), and subject to qualification Luke McCann could join Coscoran in the 1500m final.