Ireland’s Rhasidat Adeleke fourth in 400m final at World Athletics Championships

She was aiming to be the first Irish athlete to win World Championship medal on the track since 1995

Faraway, again so agonisingly close as Rhasidat Adeleke finished just half a second from the podium in the race for the new world order of women’s 400 metres running.

But in running herself into a magnificent fourth place in her first World Championship final a week shy of turning 21, Adeleke’s future ambition is now written in bold. Less than a year out from the Paris Olympics, the dream begins for real.

For 350 metres here that dream was still alive as Adeleke looked to go where no Irish woman has gone before, the Tallaght sprinter taking on the best one-lap runners in the world on another suffocatingly hot night inside the National Athletics Stadium.

There’s a reason World Championship medals are so difficult to win, and by the finish Marileidy Paulino from the Dominican Republic was the class champion apart, the 26-year-old improving her lifetime best to 48.76 seconds.


Then came Natalia Kaczmarek from Poland, the former European champion winning silver in 49.57, and nailing third just ahead of Adeleke was Sada Williams from Barbados in 49.60, third in the event last year as well. So Adeleke crossed the line in fourth, running 50.13, her effort absolutely complete. If there was even a whisper of disappointment or regret she was keeping that entirely to herself.

“I gave it 100 per cent, left it all on the track out there, that’s all I had,” she said. “It has been a long season, running since the start of January, so to come fourth, honestly, it’s a really good result,” she said. “Hopefully next year I’ll be able to gear my season towards the Olympics and not have such a long season after the NCAA. And that’s what the main goal is, to stay healthy.

“I went out there, I had so much fun with the whole experience. It is not very often that you get into a world final, so I just want to take it all in my stride and enjoy the experience. And it’s good experience. I know what it takes now to compete with the best. I’m just going to continue to train hard, work hard stay focused and I can be consistently competing with the top athletes.”

Her race execution went to plan. Lining up in lane four with all the top medal contenders to her outside, at the outset she could see Lieke Klaver from the Netherlands going out faster than anyone in the lane outside her. Adeleke didn’t panic though, clearly keeping something back for the last 100m. It just wasn’t enough to get her into the medals.

“I didn’t really know exactly where I was. Everyone was kind of in the middle and in contention but I was able to try and get myself into a better position,” she explained. “But I was tired at the end. I feel like everyone who was there belonged, like we all worked hard. We all did our best and it’s just cool to be able to be considered one of the top athletes in the year.

“And I did feel a little out of my comfort zone, the first 200m I prefer to be a bit more comfortable the first 200m. But I did what I was told, and I’d be kicking myself if I did the opposite, and finished even worse.”

It’s 10 weeks now since she won the NCAA title in an Irish record of 49.20, her immediate future now being to race professionally. That alone raises her prospects even further. “It’s just general fatigue, and my body was just kind of breaking down a bit. But I was just able thankfully to get back into decent shape to be able to compete.

“I knew I was going to come and perform, regardless (of issues). It’s extra motivation for next year, getting so close. I just went out a bit faster than I did in the previous rounds but I felt it in the end, the last 50, but at the end of the day I tried my best and that’s all I can do.”

After Ciara Mageean’s close fourth in the 1,500m final on Tuesday, Adeleke was looking to become only the third ever Irish medal winner on the track in the 40-year history of these championships – and the first in 28 years (not forgetting others won in race walking).

The task and chance presented to her was quite clear. 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, way back in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Nearly a century ago - that’s how rare they are.

Earlier Sarah Lavin broke the 13-year Irish record for the 100 metres hurdles, clocking a brilliant 12.62 seconds in the first of three semi-finals at the World Championships. It was bittersweet for the Limerick athlete, however, her fifth place finishing leaving her one spot outside of contention to progress to Thursday’s final. Born on the same day as previous record holder Derval O’Rourke, exactly 13 years apart, her time improved the 12.65 O’Rourke clocked when winning silver at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona.

For the 29 year-old Lavin, missing the final will be disappointing, although it’s a deeply competitive event, former world record holder Kendra Harrison from the US winning the semi-final in 12.33. “Yeah, I really backed myself to make that final,” Lavin said, ending up 11th overall. “I felt I was right there in the mix, then hit my trail leg, on hurdle nine. That’s the part I’m like ‘oh, I could have been a little bit quicker’.

“But I have to take great heart from that, I’m immensely proud of what I did tonight, I just wanted to go one step further.”

Crucially, Megan Tapper from Jamaica finished ahead of Lavin in fourth, in 12.55, with only the top two across the three semi-finals (and two fastest losers) making that showdown. Lavin’s previous best was 12.67, just .02 off O’Rourke’s old mark, and she also ran 12.69 seconds in Tuesday’s heats.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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