Mageean keeps composure after major championship hiatus, writes James Sullivan.
Ireland’s Ciara Mageean qualified for the final of the 1500m at the European Championships in Amsterdam this evening. The UCD athlete finished third in heat one, clocking 4:13.61 in a tactical race, claiming one of the four automatic qualification spots.
“My aim was to be up there in the top four among the automatic qualifiers, and I don’t feel like I expended too much energy doing so,” remarked a pleased Mageean afterwards. “I’m happy that I was able to hold myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a major championship.”
The race began at a pedestrian pace, with the opening 800m being covered in 2:22, before the tempo picked up dramatically with 700m to go. However, the 2010 World Junior silver medallist feels that this kind of race is something she thrives on.
“There was a lot of argy-bargy, but that’s what racing is about. I actually enjoy that as you have to stamp your claim in there and not let anybody push you over. It’s about letting the other girls know you are there.”
The County Down runner tracked the moves of leading gold medal challengers Sifan Hassan and Angelika Cichocka, before easing back slightly in the closing stages, once a top four placing was secured.
“I felt good and thought there’s no reason for me not to be up there with these girls. I was racing for top four, so there’s no point in me absolutely belting through the line in the heats. That’s for the final.”
Now that qualification is out of the way, Mageean believes that a medal is there for the taking.
“This is a European Championships where there are a lot of top names missing and I think it’s anybody’s race to get out there and run for a medal. I don’t think there’s any point in me coming to a European Championships if I’m not going to be up there in a final battling my way through.”
Given the nature of how championship 1500m races have panned out in recent years, the likelihood is that it will be a tactical affair off a slow initial pace, something which the Irish champion believes will suit her, given her prowess over 800m.
“Every athlete out there has speed in the legs, but I’ve proved this year that I can go out and do a fast 800m all on my own, so I know I have the pace in my legs for the last 400m, the last 200m, to try to put it up to any girl, so if the pace goes out slow, hopefully I will have something in the tank to give it a kick down the home straight.”
Once touted by some as “the next Sonia O’Sullivan”, Mageean had an outstanding junior career claiming silver medals at both the World and European Junior Championships, before a series of career threatening injuries curtailed her progress over the past four years.
“It’s been a long long road for me, from being a junior athlete who everybody knows. I don’t want to be one of those athletes who is just known as somebody who was a good junior, so hopefully I can come out in these championships and prove to everybody that I’m a good senior athlete.”