Rhasidat Adeleke is one lap away from history at World Athletics Championships

Irish runner finishes second in her semi-final with a time of 49.87

Eight women, eight lanes, one lap and three World Championship medals. Gold, silver and bronze.

Now that Rhasidat Adeleke is in there, and it’s all been narrowed down to exactly this, such is the clear and presently thrilling prospect. Can she once again go where no Irish woman has gone before?

Indeed the first and last Irish athlete to win a medal of any colour in any outdoor global sprint event was Bob Tisdall, gold in the 400m hurdles, back in the 1932 Olympics. That long ago.

So, her young ambition once again fulfilled, Adeleke booked her place in the World Championship final of the 400 metres, the Dublin sprinter second in her semi-final with another sub-50 second clocking of 49.87.


With only the top two across the three semi-finals progressing, plus the two-fastest losers, Adeleke made absolutely sure, moving into second spot into the homestretch after another conservative opening half-lap, Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic taking the win in 49.54.

She’ll be in lane four for the final, her first global final in any event, a week out from her 21st birthday, back on track for that showdown on Wednesday evening (8.35pm Irish time).

“I was probably too comfortable again for the first 200, I need to find my 200 speed, and had to work too hard in the last 200. But that’s something I’m going to use [in the final],” Adeleke said.

“I just focused on myself, my own race. I was just being a bit too comfortable, way too conservative. But I knew I was strong. I’m definitely getting back in shape, looking forward the final. I feel like I can compete against the best, and it’s anyone’s medal.”

On another cauldron of an evening inside the National Athletics Stadium in Budapest, Adeleke once again ran calm and utterly composed, even if it did appear somewhat harder work than Sunday’s opening heat. She is, incidentally, the first Irish presence in an outdoor final of a World Championship sprint event since Berlin in 2009, when David Gillick (400m) and Derval O’Rourke (100m hurdles) both made their final showdowns.

Running in lane five, Paulino was running two lanes outside her, the 26 year-old who improved her best to 49.98 this season. Paulino was runner-up in Oregon last year, and at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, looking increasingly like the athlete to beat this time around. She’ll start in lane seven.

Others are sure to have a say: Adeleke’s 49.87 ranked her fourth fastest from the three semi-finals, Natalia Kaczmarek from Poland winning third semi-final in a telling 49.50, ahead of Sada Williams from Barbados, who looked every bit as impressive when nailing second in a new national record of 49.58.

It won’t by just between those four: Dutch champion Lieke Klaver won the second semi-final in 49.87, her ambitions sure to tell in that final showdown too.

It was only Adeleke’s fourth race in 10 weeks since that sensational victory at the American NCAA Championships, and Irish record of 49.20; now Wednesday evening’s final presents the chance to step on to that global podium.

“I’m happy, it’s always amazing to make a global final. It was a good race, and I was delighted with the reception out there.”

“I have more of a bit more experience. So I’ve come to know how to negotiate my way, if I’m in trouble, I know what I can do. I went too slow in the first 200, but I trusted my strengths from in my training, and I knew that regardless of my position, we’d be able to make it.

“I don’t want put too much pressure. I know what I can do. And you know, I’m just really, really grateful that I’m able to do what I love.”

On her tactics for the final, she said: “Go out hard and use my 200m speed. Again, I was too comfortable in the first 200m, and I’ll just fix that part. I probably had a lot of energy at the end. And it’s really about just distributing that properly.”

Asked before about her medal ambitions she said: “It’s championship racing, you never know what to expect, anything can happen. I just focus on what I can do, I can’t control if someone else runs fast or something.

“Whatever God has planned for me, my goal is to just give it my all.”

Sharlene Mawdsley was also out in the second semi-final. After running a new lifetime best of 51.17 in qualifying, the Tipperary athlete finished in seventh in 51.78, short of making that final showdown

In the latest showdown between the fastest women on earth, World Championship debutant Sha’Carri Richardson from the USA upset the Jamaican duo with a brilliant win from the outside lane, her victory coming in a championship record of 10.65 seconds.

Shericka Jackson had to settle for second in 10.72, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also of Jamaica denied a sixth consecutive title, third in 10.77. Grant Holloway from the USA did win a third title in the 110 metre hurdles, after victories in 2019 and 2022.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics