After years of frustration, Ciara Mageean takes her first senior medal for Ireland, writes James Sullivan.
The final day of the European Championships in Amsterdam was the coming of age of Ciara Mageean. The UCD athlete finally fulfilled the great promise she showed as a junior by claiming her first major senior medal, taking bronze in the 1500m. The County Down runner clocked 4:33:78 in a tactical affair, following a pedestrian first 800m, narrowly losing out on second place to Netherlands’ multi-medal winning star Sifan Hassan by just 0.02 of a second. The title was claimed by Angelika Cichocka of Poland in 4:33.00.
“The pace was pedestrian by anybody’s accounts but that’s championship running,” remarked Mageean afterwards. “But I didn’t come here to run fast times, that’s for the paced races throughout the season. I was saying in my head ‘this is fantastic girls, keep running this slow’, because I’m happy to out sprint them come the end. I’ve a fast 800m in my legs, and I know that I can turn over a fast 400m. I know that I can out kick any girl in the field.”
Despite her achievement, the 24 year old admitted to being frustrated with how the closing stages panned out, as she got boxed in with about 90 metres to go, and had to chop her stride to find a clear run down the home straight.
“I tried to take the inside but one of the girls cut me off. I’m a little bit frustrated. I wish I had a clear run of that home straight. If I had then I think I might have had a different colour medal around my neck.”
“It’s been four years since I’ve had an Irish vest around me, and this time three years ago I was having ankle surgery so to be a little bit disappointed with a bronze shows how far I’ve come. I’ll just have to take everybody’s advice and enjoy it, because me being me I’m disappointed in things, but it’s been a long road back for me so I’m happy with that.”
Mageean had a glittering junior career which included silver medals at the 2010 World Junior Championships and the 2011 European Junior Championships. However the past few years have been blighted with injury problems and she hasn’t represented Ireland since the 2012 European Championships in Helsinki, and had ankle surgery in 2013. Having come through so many challenges in her senior career to date, the Irish national champion believes that the future is bright and there is much more to come.
“I’m excited as this is a very good position for me to be in going forward. This is only the beginning for Ciara Mageean. This is ground zero. I’m going to keep building from this year on year. This is my very first senior medal for Ireland, and hopefully it will be the first of many.”
Mageean also paid special appreciation to her coach, Jerry Kiernan, and remarked that without his influence and support, she would not have made it through the severe difficulties she has faced in her career to date.
“I wouldn’t even say it’s a coach-athlete relationship. I feel very privileged to call Jerry Kiernan a friend, not just my coach. He feels like a second dad to me. Without Jerry I wouldn’t be here. He took me on before my ankle surgery, and he had a very young scarred girl in tears in front of him. He’s given me the confidence to know that I’m as good as any athlete in the world. I cannot thank him enough.”
Despite missing out on silver by the slimmest of margins, she believes that going toe to toe down the final 50m with an athlete of the calibre of Sifan Hassan is something she can take immense encouragement from as her focus moves towards the Rio Olympic Games next month.
“I go out there and I give every athlete in the field respect but I’m not going to give them more respect than they deserve. I’m not going to put them above myself. It gives me confidence that I can go out and rub shoulders with the best in the world.”