World Athletic Championships: Ciara Mageean sets Irish record to finish fourth - ‘I honestly gave it my all’

Mageean just missed out on a first World Championship medal on the track for an Irish athlete since 1995

It was the supreme championship showdown, not just between the finest 1,500m women in the World only surely now of all-time, and Ciara Mageean was right there with them, still hunting down a medal into the homestretch.

In the end Mageean’s sensationally brave and bold run saw her finish just outside off that podium, an agonising fourth – when is it ever not – despite running an Irish record of 3:56.61

With Faith Kipyegon hailed once again as the chief among them, Mageean, the 31-year-old from Portaferry, felt she ran the perfect race on a stifling hot night inside the National Athletics Stadium.

Kipyegon, the 29-year-old from Kenya, already a two-time World and Olympic champion, was this summer the first woman to run 3:50 with her world record, took the win this time in 3:54.87.


Then came Diribe Welteji, the 21-year-old former World Under-20 champion from Ethiopia in 3:55.69, Sifan Hassan kicking past Mageean down the backstretch to hold on for bronze in 3:56.00.

“I laid myself bare, ran a tactically perfect race I feel,” Mageean said, her expression afterwards laid bare too, somewhere between a proud smile and a quiet tear.

“To stand here, being a bit disappointed with fourth in the World, in previous years I would have taken off your hand for that. I came here knowing I had the ability to come away with a medal, and to just narrowly miss out on that, I still have to hold my head high, I gave absolutely everything out on that track.”

Indeed she did: inevitably the three and three-quarter lap race simmered and then promptly boiled down to a crazy 400m sprint, and Mageean gave herself every chance, sitting a close third at the bell.

“I just wish I had something a little extra in that homestretch, but I honestly gave it my all. I’ll go home and have a wee cry, but I’m proud of how I performed, and it’s not a bad place to be, going into an Olympic year.

“I’ve worked really hard on this, finally feel I’m where I belong, in the top of women’s 1,500m. And I’ve shown I’m someone to be feared out there now.

“I feel I was in that race, got myself out, had Faith right next to me. Everyone was going to be looking at her, but I felt strong, no one was going to push me over. I’ve played enough camogie not to be shoved off an athletics track. So yeah, I feel I got it as tactically right as I could. It wasn’t a super fast race, I was prepared to go even faster, it’s amazing to be disappointed at that.”

Four years on from making her first outdoor global final in Doha, where she finished 10th behind Hassan and a Dutch runaway victory, Mageean sat on Kipyegon, who took control of the race from the start, slowing proceedings down to a 65.4 opening lap, then 2:11.78 at 800m.

Despite keeping hopes alive to the line she finished just short, her 3:56.61 improving her Irish record of 3:56.63 set last year. She was looking to become only the third ever Irish medal winner on the track in the 40-year history of these Championships (not forgetting the race walks, naturally), and few since looked more primed and or indeed ready.

The two previous medallists were Eamonn Coghlan (5,000m gold at the inaugural Championships in Helsinki) then Sonia O’Sullivan twice (silver over 1,500 metres in 1993, gold over 5,000m in 1995); only racewalkers Gillian O’Sullivan (silver in the 2003) and Olive Loughnane and Rob Heffernan (gold in 2009 and 2013 respectively) have won medals for Ireland in the years since.

Sarah Lavin is next in line to chase a World Championship final berth, earlier in the night nailing third in her heat of the 100m hurdles in 12.69 seconds, the second fastest time of her life (just off the 12.67 clocked earlier this month), behind Jamaica’s Ackera Nugent (12.60).

She’s back on track on Wednesday evening (7.45 Irish time), with only the top two across the three semi-finals (and two fastest losers) making that showdown.

“I do have a time in my head, because I think to make that final, it will take a low 12.50,” Lavin said. “That race will definitely help, because no matter how many times you mimic in training, you just can’t help being in that environment.

“I hit one or two hurdles with my trail leg, there’s absolutely no room for that from here on. But I am looking for something spectacular in the next round, it’s an absolutely stacked event, it’s down to the last 24, and everything is going to have to go right.”

Stacked it unquestionably is, Lavin’s 12.67 ranking her 12th fastest after the five heats, the fastest of the lot being former world record holder Kendra Harrison of the USA, clocking a super-smooth 12.44.

Defending champion and current world record holder Tobi Amusan from Nigeria is in there too, winning the last heat in 12.48, her entry only confirmed last week after a provisional suspension for a doping whereabouts failure was lifted.

Lavin will go in the first semi-final, in lane four, with Harrison for company: “I think Derval ran a 12.6 twice, so we’re twins now, I am getting close,” added Lavin “But her 12.65 is still that bit ahead, and I’ll give it another go tomorrow. But I think ultimately it will require that and even more.”

Few heats are more cut-throat in qualifying than the men’s 800m, and Budapest proved that again, four-time European medal winner Mark English was left facing that anxious sit-and-wait to find out would he progress as one of the three non-automatic qualifiers.

Running in the second of seven heats, English was knocked off his stride entering the second bend, around the 230m mark, as the pace suddenly slowed, and looked in danger of drifting right back; instead he kept his head and his nerve, the Donegal doctor closing fast to claim fourth in a season best of 1:45,71, behind Poland’s Mateusz Borkowki (1:45.40). English’s brave efforted was rewarded with the second non-automatic spot, 16th fastest overall. He races next on Thursday.

“The 800m is a rhythm race,” English said, “I had to check my stride and get back into it and stay focused. It’s more mentally hard to try to be in contention with the guys ahead of you more than anything, but I was just going to give it everything over the last 600. I won’t dwell on that for too long, I’m through to the semi final.”

No joy for John Fitzsimons though, fifth in his heat in 1:48.20: after putting himself well in contention at the bell, he lost some ground down the backstretch, the win there going to Alex Kipngetich from Kenya in 1:47.63.


9:05 – Women’s 800m – Heats (Louise Shanahan)

9:15 – Men’s pole vault – Qualification

9:20 – Women’s javelin throw Qualification

10:15 – Men’s long jump – Qualification

11:05 – Women’s 200m – Heats

11:50 – Men’s 200m – Heats

18:00 – Women’s hammer throw – Qualification A

18:10 – Women’s triple jump – Qualification

18:30 – Women’s pole vault – Final

18:45 – Women’s 3000m steeplechase – Heats

19:45 – Women’s 100m hurdles – Semi-finals (Sarah Lavin)

20:15 – Men’s 1500m – Final

20:35 – Women’s 400m – Final (Rhasidat Adeleke)

20:50 – Men’s 400m hurdles – Final

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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