This evening was the coming of age of talented athlete Mark English, writes James Sullivan.
There was joy for Ireland at the European Championships in Zurich this evening as Mark English picked up the country’s first medal of the week. The Donegal man claimed bronze in the 800m final with a time of 1:45.03, equalling his season’s best from the New York Diamond League meet in June. The race was won by Polish athlete Adam Kszczot in 1:44.15, with countryman Artur Kuciapski in second with 1:44.89.
“As I was coming out I was just so relaxed,” remarked a jubilant English afterwards. “I was talking to the guys in the taxi on the way over and I didn’t feel any pressure. I think I have proved I run best like that, just relaxed, and if I’m running my own race according to how I feel, and not just going out and sticking to an original plan.”
The 21 year old ran a tactically clever race, holding back from the aggressive opening 400m pace set by French pre-race favourite Pierre-Ambroise Bosse. English moved through the field with 350m to go, before unleashing a devastating kick down the home straight to secure Ireland’s first ever major outdoor medal over the two-lap distance.
“I knew with 80m to go Lewandowski was shot. I could see Bosse faltering as well. Bube had a good sprint in him so I knew when I was catching him, because he was the quickest in the field, that I had a lot left there as well.”
On Wednesday, English required a fastest loser sport to secure qualification for this evening’s final, and the UCD athlete believes that this result may have worked in his favour in hindsight. “I think it took a bit of pressure off me and I don’t think the other guys thought of me as much of a threat after the semis, and it kind of worked to my favour. They weren’t too worried about me for the whole race and I was just able to surprise them.”
At one point it looked like the Irish champion may have claimed the silver medal, but Poland’s Artur Kuciapski stormed past in the dying stages to bump the Irishman down a step on the podium. However, English was adamant that there was no tinge of disappointment in being pipped on the line. “I was very close to second but as they say the bronze medallists end up happier in the long run so I’m not going to complain.”
Pierre-Ambroise Bosse entered this evening’s final as the strong favourite, having set a European lead of 1:42.53 at the Diamond League meet in Monaco last month. However the Frenchman suffered in the closing stages and eventually finished in eight place. English believes that such a result shows that PBs are irrelevant come a major championship final. “Bosse has struggled to put rounds back to back in the past, in Moscow last year and before that. I knew he was beatable today. I figured Kszczot would be the strongest going in to the race, which he was. It just proves to you anything can happen.”
English has in the past been criticised for failing to perform in championships. Tonight’s result he believes will banish those beliefs held by some. “It’s just great not to be known as a time trialist anymore and that I can actually medal. That’s a big step forward for me. I can go to championships now in the future and know that I can put rounds back to back which is the real deal.”