28 February 2016; Eventual winner Sinead Denny, left, Dundrum South Dublin AC, in action during the Women's 400m event. The GloHealth National Senior Indoor Championships Senior Track & Field. AIT Arena, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Picture credit: Tomas Greally / SPORTSFILE

Sinead Denny and Brian Gregan battle strong winds to reach semi-finals in Amsterdam, writes James Sullivan.

Ireland’s Sinead Denny advanced from the heats of the 400m at the European Championships in Amsterdam this morning. Competing in her first major senior international championship, the two-time Irish national champion clocked 53.95 in blustery conditions, to finish in third place in heat 3, qualifying automatically for tomorrow evening’s semi finals.

“I always come home strong in the home straight,” remarked a visibly delighted Denny afterwards. “I knew I needed to get to 200m in shape. If I was to push it in the first 200m, I was going to die, so I just kept with the girl outside me. I felt I was catching her a good bit on the top bend, so that’s where I need to move again tomorrow. I always have it in me in the closing stages, so hopefully it will be the same tomorrow.”

Sinead Denny

The Dundrum South Dublin athlete, who is coached by former Olympian Paul Oppermann, has made great strides this year, lowering her personal best from 53.98 to 53.26, but the 25 year old believes there is more to come in the semi-final, if she can get the right conditions.

“I would have loved a PB today but it was so windy on the back straight. I thought I would have had it, with the girls around me being so fast, so hopefully the wind will die down tomorrow. Sub 53 would be unreal. If not, then to get under the qualification standard again (53.40) would be a nice target to achieve.”

“It’s on during the evening, so I’ll have a good 24 hours rest at least to just chill out and go see the family for a bit, and get ready for tomorrow.”

In the men’s 400m there was similar success for Brian Gregan, who qualified for tomorrow evening’s semi finals. The Clonliffe Harriers athlete finished fifth from lane one in heat 3, failing to make it into the top four automatic qualification spots, but his clocking of 47.02 was enough to see him advance as one of the three fastest losers.

brian-gregan

Brian Gregan

“Lane one is a tricky one,” remarked the Irish national champion in the aftermath. “The cameraman had his camera in lane one for the first 30 metres and I nearly head butted it.”

The 26 year old, who was a silver medallist at the 2011 European Under-23 Championships, was pleased with how he felt during the race, but admitted that an error of judgment was what cost him an automatic qualification place.

“I got out ok and felt comfortable enough, but with 50m to go I didn’t see the guy out in lane eight come through, and so in the last couple of metres I had to make a second surge, and the legs felt a bit heavy as a result. It was a little bit of naivety by myself, but thankfully I still qualified.”

Gregan, who will play a crucial part in Ireland’s 4x400m Olympic qualification hopes later in the week, believes there is much more to come in tomorrow’s semi-final, where he will leave everything on the track.

“The guy in lane 3 was ranked the fastest and he finished sixth. While I was not so much following him, I was expecting him to go and he never did, so I think I’ll need to work a bit more on the top bend tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow I won’t be reserving anything. I’ll just be going for it.”

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