It was another magnificent morning for the Irish at the European Championships in Munich as Louise Shanahan reached the 800m final while the women’s 4x400m team of Sophie Becker, Phil Healy, Rhasidat Adeleke and Sharlene Mawdsley finished second in their heat, smashing the national record with 3:26.06.
nce again, Adeleke was the star of the show, the 19-year-old clocking an astonishing split of 49.49 seconds in what was her 50th race of the year, moving the Irish from second into a clear lead by the time Mawdsley took the baton for the anchor leg. In the end, Mawdsley was caught near the line by Lisanne de Witte of the Netherlands, who edged victory in 3:25.84, with Ireland in second taking a huge chunk off the previous national record of 3:27.48, set at the 2011 World Championships.
“We’re in the final, we have that box ticked, tomorrow we need to do our job correctly and if we do that everything can happen,” said Healy, who put her disappointment in the individual 400m earlier this week firmly behind her with a swift 51.78-second split. “When I came out of here on Monday I was like, ‘jeez, have I lost my spot on the relay?’ I knew I was in better shape but I had no answers to what happened but to come out, do myself justice – it was almost an angry run knowing what I was capable of, and to get a 51-second split, it’s what we needed to do.”
Becker had been a major doubt for the championships in recent weeks after contracting Covid-19 for the third time in the past nine months, the latest bout leaving her floored physically. “I was in a lot of pain, very sick, but I got over it soon enough,” she said. “Not ideal, so I decided not to do the individual and I think that gamble paid off. I’m not gonna lie, I felt the pressure of (running) the first leg, lane one, there’s a lot to do, but I’m really happy with how I ran. I handed to Phil and she got to the break first so mission accomplished.”
While there may be a substitution, with Roisin Harrison and Cliodhna Manning waiting in the wings, it’s likely the same four will likely be back on the line for the final tomorrow night, which takes place at 8.45pm Irish time.
“There’s definitely room to take another second, second and a half, off that time,” said Becker. “We’re all hungry for more. Why can’t we battle for a medal? It’s not out of the question.”
In the 800m semi-finals, Shanahan produced what was likely the best race of her career to finish third in 2:01.15, with Olympic silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson taking victory in 2:00.67. Just after the race the overjoyed Cork athlete sprinted into the stands to hug her father, Ray.
“I got a great hug off my dad then was told in no uncertain terms to go back before I got disqualified,” laughed Shanahan, who had felt in dire physical condition after her heat on Thursday, but looked fully fresh after this performance – the second fastest time of her career.
“The race was almost identical but I felt so much better,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I got the big Q, and to see it next to my name and be in a European final is a dream come true. I’ll go into it and give it my all.
“To make the final is a huge achievement, we’re already in bonus territory as my goal here was to get out of the heat. I ran the heat as if it was a final and I ran this as if it was bonus territory. I was surprised by how much my legs had. I’m absolutely delighted – happy out.”
There was bitter disappointment for the men’s 4x100m team of Israel Olatunde, Mark Smyth, Colin Doyle and Joseph Ojewumi which failed to finish in the heats following a botched exchange between Smyth and Doyle.
“The goal is to get it into the hand and it didn’t get into the hand,” said Doyle. “I’m just gutted. It just slipped when Mark went to pass it to me and then Mark went to do it again, but by that point we were out of the game.”
Given their youth, the quartet was adamant they would return to make amends. “It’s a team event, it’s nobody’s fault, relays are a fickle event and it’s difficult to get right,” said Ojewumi. “But the future is really bright. There’s so much more we can do when we get it right, so many people who can come into this team and do a shift. We were privileged to be the four today.”
While it was a disappointing end to a breakthrough week for Olatunde, the 100m finalist said: “Obviously things didn’t work out, but there’s great enthusiasm among the sprinters in Ireland; let’s just keep our heads down and the future is bright.”
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