Ireland claim gold in 4x400m mixed relay at the European Athletics Championships

A scintillating run was capped by Sharlene Mawdsley’s anchor leg in Rome

Ireland 4x400m relay team, from left, Chris O'Donnell, Rhasidat Adeleke, Sharlene Mawdsley and Thomas Barr celebrate after winning the Mixed 4x400m Relay final during day one of the 2024 European Athletics Championships at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
7 June 2024; Ireland 4x400m relay team, from left, Chris O'Donnell, Rhasidat Adeleke, Sharlene Mawdsley and Thomas Barr celebrate after winning the Mixed 4x400m Relay final during day one of the 2024 European Athletics Championships at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile (Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

IRELAND celebrated a first gold medal at a European Athletics Championships in 26 years when its medley relay team blew away the opposition in Rome on Friday night.

The Irish team management were rewarded for an astute running order to land the biggest prize ever claimed by an Irish relay quartet.

Christopher O’Donnell (46.09) handed over in a close-up fourth at the end of the first leg, with Italy leading the way from Belgium and Great Britain.

The Sligo man gave the baton to Ireland’s doyenne of one-lappers, Rhasidat Adeleke, who overtook the Italians to take the lead thanks to a 49.53 second split.

Thomas Barr then turned in possibly his best-ever relay leg (44.90) to keep Ireland in close contention at the second changeover behind Belgium, for whom World Indoor champion Alexander Doom (44.16) had charged to the front.

It was now all down to Sharlene Mawdsley, who took off in second spot knowing that somewhere behind her World Indoor record-holder Femke Bol was running the anchor leg for the Netherlands, who had beaten Ireland at the World Athletics Relays in May.

It was do or die for the Tipperary woman, who quickly took the lead and literally never looked back as she had possibly the run of her life to break the tape in a championship record of 3:09.92.

Mawdsley was rewarded with a 49.40 clocking, the second fastest female timing of the entire race, as Italy regained the silver medal spot and Bol found her 49.21 timing only good enough for the bronze medals.

“It means so much because we knew what we could do as a team,” said Rhasidat Adeleke.

“We were really strong and it just felt like it was our turn to win a championship medal at senior level. We’ve worked so hard, we trust each other, and that showed on the track today.’'

It was also a crowning moment to Barr’s long career, which included a fourth place in the 400m hurdles at the Rio Olympics. Running in his sixth European Championships, he can now add a gold medal to the bronze he won in the 400m hurdles in 2018.

“I have been around a long time and medals at European Championships do not come around that often,” said Barr.

“This is just a phenomenal performance. We knew what we could do coming into this. We knew off the back of the world relays that we had a really good shot.

“And it wasn’t just any medal but if we really got it right on the day, which we did, we ended up with a championship record, close to a world record, and a gold, not just on the line. We took it by storm. This won’t sink in for a while but we have to enjoy it. It does not come around that often.”

It is only Ireland’s fourth gold medal at the European Championships, the three previous were all won by Sonia O’Sullivan, and sets the Irish athletes up for an unprecedented story of successes in the next five days.

Earlier, Ciara Mageean took the first step toward a medal at the European Athletics Championships with an unworried third place in her semi-final. With the top six assured of qualification to Sunday night’s final, it was job done for the Portaferry woman who stopped the clock at four minutes, 6.81 seconds, modest by her standard.

With temperatures rising to the high 20s, Mageean looked calm and confident as she lined up alongside the 14 other women with the first six guaranteed advancement. No fastest losers, it was all down to finishing places. The Irish record holder coolly settled back in the pack after the gun fired and stayed there through opening lap splits of 68.86 and 2:16.4. An urgency struck the field at the sound of the bell but it was only with three laps gone (3:21.52) that the gloves were entirely off.

Mageean was back in seventh at this point as long-time leader Jemma Reekie of Britain continued to dominate at the front. A confident Mageean started to work her way through on the backstraight and was able to cruise up to third in the finl 100m as Reekie took the win in 4:06.68.

“I wanted to stay out of trouble … that’s the biggest risk you get is caught up in something, you’re having to keep your wits about you when you’re in the pack of a 1500m but I had the faith no matter where I was, I’d be able to be in that top six and make it through,” said Mageean. “The aim was to be in the top six and I am in the top six. I’m through to the final, that’s all I had to do.”

Sarah Healy will join Mageean in the final after an equally competent fourth place in the second semi-final. In a much slower race, the Dubliner followed a similar strategy as her compatriot. Always well-placed Healy came wide on the final homestraight to avoid trouble, two women had fallen earlier in the contest, and seize one of those invaluable qualification spots in 4:12.30. Winner of the race was France’s Agatha Guillemot, a surname with a long history in French athletics, in 4:11.92.

Unfortunately, Mark English’s participation in the championships lasted less than two minutes after elimination in heat 2 of the 800m. Knowing that only the first three finishers in each of the four heats were guaranteed to advance to Saturday’s semi-finals, although there was a second chance for the four fastest non automatic qualifiers, pressure was on the Donegal man to produce his best.

The heat went off fast but slowed around 300m when the Finn Valley AC athlete went uncharacteristically to the front and led at the bell in 52.35 seconds. He was still in front at 500m but had slipped back to third entering the final furlong but held that vital third spot entering the home straight only to be gobbled up by faster finishers.

His fifth place in 1:46.73 fell short on both counts, neither a top three nor a fastest time. Britain’s Tom Randolph, runner-up in the Bobby Farren Memorial 800m in Belfast last month, grabbed the fourth and final fastest automatic non-qualifier time of 1:45.58 in the fourth heat.

“It went off exactly as I thought it would,” said English. I knew [Elliott] Crestan (also eliminated in fourth) would try to slow it right down because he has run fast this season, so I passed him at 250 into the race and tried to kick on a bit. Yeah. But it was tough out there to try to do that out there and to try to turn the wheels over the last 300m. This year was all about qualifying for the Olympics, so I’m going to get back to that.”

Michelle Finn was below her best in the 3000m steeplechase heats where a top eight finish would have sufficed to qualify for the final. Finn took 14th place in the first heat where defending champion Luiza Gega of Albania could only manage eighth place in a race won by Romania’s adopted Kenyan Stella Rutto in 9:30.00. Finn was timed at 9:46.93, a season’s best but well short of her career high of 9:29.05 in Finland three years ago.

In the evening session, Israel Olatunde ran a season’s best time of 10.31 seconds to reach the semi-finals of the men’s 100m. Drawn in lane six, Olatunde came home third and was comfortably amongst the 14 competitors, in eighth place overall, who will contest the semis on Saturday.


Women’s 20km race walk

1. Antonella Palmisano (ITA), 1:28.08 🥇2. Valentina Trapaletti (ITA), 1:28.37 PB 🥈3. Lyudmila Olyanovska (UKR), 1:28.48 SB 🥉4. Laura Garcia-Caro (ESP), 1:28.485. Camille Moutard (FRA), 1:28.55 PB6. Cristina Montesinos (ESP), 1:29.077. Clemence Beretta (FRA), 1:29.378. Pauline Stey (FRA), 1:29.54

Men’s discus throw

1.Kristjan Čeh (SLO), 68.08m 🥇2. Lukas Weißhaidinger (AUT), 67.70m 🥈3. Mykolas Alekna (LTU), 67.48m 🥉4. Daniel Ståhl (SWE), 66.84m5. Henrik Janssen (GER), 65.48m6. Clemens Prufer (GER), 64.60m7. Andrius Gudzius (LTU), 64.43m8. Lawrence Okoye (GBR), 63.48m

Women’s shot put

1. Jessica Schilder (NED) 18.77 🥇2. Jorinde Van Klinken (NED) 18.67 SB 🥈3. Yemisi Ogunleye (GER) 18.62 🥉4. Alina Kenzel (GER) 18.555. María Belén Toimil (ESP) 18.436. Fanny Roos (SWE) 18.267. Julia Ritter (GER) 18.188. Sara Lennman (SWE) 18.16

Mixed 4x400m relay

Top 8

Women’s 5,000m

1. Nadia Battocletti (ITA) 14:35.29 CR 🥇2. Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal (NOR) 14:38.62 SB 🥈3. Marta García (ESP) 14:44.04 NR 🥉4. Maureen Koster (NED) 14:44.46 PB5. Nathalie Blomqvist (FIN) 14:44.72 NR6. Hanna Klein (GER) 14:58.28 SB7. Federica Del Buono (ITA) 15:00.05 PB8. Sarah Madeleine (FRA) 15:02.56 PB