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Rhasidat Adeleke: There’s no doubt that the girl from Tallaght has arrived on the global stage

Irish runner came so close to a medal in her first World Championships final

Heartbreakers. Tear-jerkers. You couldn’t script it any other way. You couldn’t make it up.

Fourth. The worst number. The worst place you can finish in a race. Not just any race. A World final.

“She’s on fire this year,” Rob Walker had told viewers on Virgin Media TV as Rhasidat Adeleke escaped from under the grandstand out on to the track to roars of acclaim.

We already knew there were loads of Irish in stadium. Will Dalton had somehow rounded up men, women and children earlier outside on their way inside, all of them excited and wrapped in their tricolours with a giddy level of expectancy for the girl – not yet 21 – from Tallaght.


But it wasn’t a night for fairytales. Not long before the women’s 400 metres final we’d already saw that storylines aren’t always straightforward when the seemingly invincible Nordic god Jakob Ingerbrigsten was outpaced by Britain’s Josh Kerr in the men’s 1,500 metres final.

At least there would be some solace later for the Vikings later when Karsten Warholm did prove invincible in plundering gold in the men’s 400 metres hurdle.

No such solace for the Irish, however.

Indeed, there’d been a scene-setter earlier. Sarah Lavin had run the race of her life in the women’s 100 metres to finally break Derval O’Rourke’s national record. Unfortunately, even that brilliant run wasn’t enough to see her into the final as she cursed hitting a hurdle – namely number nine – late on.

“Sorry Derval,” said Lavin of finally managing to get her hands on the record but still feeling the aches and pain of her knee clashing into the hurdle. “I’ve a nice little shiner on my knee. My poor knee. I’ll have the ugliest knee,” said the new fastest ever Irishwoman over hurdles, who narrowly failed to earn a place in the final via the fastest qualifier route.

Lavin’s travels next year will include the Paris Olympics and she will move on with some greater expectations. And hopefully her knee will be just fine.

But then it was on to the 400 metres final with the arena already a cauldron of expectancy after Kerr dared to beat Ingerbrigsten and then the ongoing highflying pole vaulting duel that ultimately couldn’t separate American Katie Moon and Australian Nina Kennedy.

Showtime for Adeleke brought her on to the track alongside the world’s greatest women 400m runners.

Earlier in the morning Ireland AM weatherman Deric Hartigan had brought the Virgin Media television cameras out to Tallaght where he talked to Adeleke’s first coach Jonny Fox who’d first trained her as a 12-year-old. “I don’t think anybody has ever beaten her twice, so that’s a good omen for tonight,” said Fox.

“We’re hoping for a medal,” Deric had agreed.

If only.

Just like the night before when Ciara Mageean was confined to fourth in the women’s 1500 metres final, so now too Adeleke.

“(Her head’s) rocking and rolling,” said Walker in his television commentary as the Dubliner struggled to make up the ground on those ahead rounding the final bend.

The John Creedon Show on RTÉ radio had broken away from the old singing for tones of Greg Allen on live commentary. “Adeleke has to find something in the home straight,” roared Greg into his microphone, “and she has to find a lot. She has found something and now she is in third place ... it’s so close for a medal but she’s going to be run out of it, she’s going to be run out of it, she’s tiring.”

A long season had caught up with Adeleke, her time of 50.13 seconds well outside her best, while the gold medal went to the favourite Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic.

Ah, but you had to feel for Rhasidat. She’s had a brilliant year when with her NCAA gold in America and then turning professional afterwards to pursue her dream.

“So close, yet so far,” said Will Dalton to the clearly disappointed Adeleke when she made her way up to his interviewing perch.

“I gave it all I had,” Adeleke responded and nobody could doubt that at all at all. “I felt I was out of my comfort zone. I did what I was told,” she added, perhaps wondering if tactics as much as the long season dating all the way back to January on the collegiate circuit had caught up with her.

No medal, sadly. But no doubt that the girl from Tallaght had very definitely arrived on the global stage.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times