Indoor Track & Field

It’s super silver for English in Prague

Mark English came from behind to win the silver medal over 800m at the European Championships in Prague this afternoon, running 1:47.20 behind Polish champion Marcin Lewandowski (1:46.67) to make it two championship medals on the trot for the Donegal wunderkind, who, lest we forget, is still just 21 years of age.

Indeed, we should no longer say that English is the future of Irish athletics, because the simple fact is this: he is the present. English was one of the medal favourites going into today’s race, unsurprising given his tag as the European bronze medallist, but when English drifted towards the back of the field for the opening laps, which were run at a relatively pedestrian pace inside the O2 arena, few Irish eyes were smiling.

The field passed 400m in 54.82, with Dutch athlete Thijmen Kupers swiftly cranking it up several notches and stringing the field out in an instant. Lewandowski was hot in  pursuit, moving up to Kupers’ shoulder as they entered the back straight for the final time.

Hitting overdrive

Right around then, English was still loitering in fourth position, but was soon about to hit top gear. Indeed, in all of English’s best races, from his second behind David Rudisha in the New York Diamond League to his bronze in Zurich or his fourth place at the Continental Cup in Marrakech last year, the signature move always was an impressive, explosive change of pace once he entered the final 200m, once he got a sniff of the finish, the place where the medals are handed out: the only place that matters in athletics.

Down the back straight, English kicked it into overdrive to pass Andreas Almgren and quickly set his sights on those ahead. Up front, Lewandowski had flown the nest, the Pole blowing by Kupers and racing away to the title looking utterly supreme.

English, meanwhile, came up on Kupers’ shoulder as they entered the home straight and from there, given the way both athletes had expended their precious energy reserves over the previous 750m, there was only ever going to be one winner in the duel for the silver medal: English.

Bronze…silver… what next?

First, all the way back in the summer of 2012, there was fifth place in the hottest 800m in the history of the world juniors. Next, there was an eye-opening tactical failure and subsequent let down when English stepped up to senior level in Moscow at the world championships. That failure taught him so much, though, and just a year later the wisdom gained was all too easy to see when he won that bronze medal in Zurich. Now, in Prague, in 2015, there is silver. He’s six months away from the world championships, 17 months out from the Olympics, and he’s right where he needs to be.

It’s true, English is the present, but remember this: he is still just 21. Make no mistake: he’s also the future.

Derval O'Rourke in action at the European Indoor Championships; Image courtesy of PhotoRun
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Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy is a freelance journalist, a once-serious, now-retired athlete who writes for a number of international publications in the running industry. He has won two sports-writing awards, the Peter Ball Memorial Award in Ireland and the Wills Writing Award in the UK. Nationally, he previously worked for the Sunday Tribune, Irish Runner magazine and has written for the Sunday Independent, Irish Independent, the Guardian and The Independent in Britain. He is a regular contributor to Running Times, Runner's World, RunBlogRun and the IAAF website.
His banter levels are often poor, occasionally exceptional.

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