World Indoor Athletics: Sharlene Mawdsley disqualified as Sarah Healy falls flat

Healy was leading into the last 10m before things suddenly went wrong.

A night of absolute contrast in Glasgow, Sharlene Mawdsley rising fast up the ranks of women’s 400 metre running to secure her place in the final after the opening day of the World Indoor Championships.

But just when it seemed Sarah Healy was also continuing her impressive rise, easing into what would have been her first senior 1,500m final, things suddenly fell flat.

As in Healy falling flat on to the track, after dropping from first to fourth in the last 10m, then ending up sixth after a race which by her own admission was riddled with tactical errors.

Earlier in the day, Mawdsley had finished joint second in her 400m heat, clocking 52.23, in what was actually a rarely seen triple dead heat, the Tipperary athlete tied with both Amandine Brossier from France and Norway’s Henriette Jaeger, the race was won by USA’s Talitha Diggs in 52.17.


However, in a later development, Mawdsley was disqualified after an appeal from Austrian runner Susanne Gogl-Walli, who finished fourth, and on that appeal was promoted to third, the track judges ruling some infringement on Mawdsley’s behalf entering the last bend.

There was an Irish counter appeal, but a statement from the Jury of Appeal read: “The jury’s view is that the Austrian athlete was obstructed as described in Rule 17.13. Contrary to the statement in the appeal, the Irish athlete did not maintain her racing line. The Jury therefore upholds the referee’s decision and the result as published stands.”

Victory went to Lieke Klaver, one of the Dutch favourites who clocked 51.18, with the rising US star Talitha Diggs taking second in 51.28, Mawdsley clearly delighted with her effort.

Femke Bol won the second semi-final in 50.66, the Dutch world record holder the standout favourite, but the Tipperary woman is in there with six best in the world. The final takes place at 9.0pm on Saturday

“I felt really good out there, I’m buzzing,” she said. “The race was a little slow, but I ran well, and the race pretty much played out like I thought it would.”

After coming to Glasgow ranked fifth in the event, still buoyed from improving the Irish record to 4:03.83 month, the least of Healy’s ambitions was to make her final on Sunday.

For all but the last 50m of the seven and a half-lap race she looked sure of that, Healy moving to the front with 100m to go, kicking past the Ethiopian Birke Haylom, the 18-year-old who had done most of the front running.

Only the top three in each of the four heats progressed, and Healy looked a certainty coming into the homestretch: only as Haylom wavered, Agathe Guillemot of France came past on the outside, and with that Healy’s legs started to buckle as she reached out for the finish line.

Guillemot took the win in 4:11.46, Haylom holding on for second, with Lucia Stafford from Canada coming through on the inside to nail third, just as Healy fell flat on the track. Two more runners then passed her – Poland’s Martina Galant and Lenata Simine of Romania – Healy lifting herself up to finish sixth in 4:18.80.

“I am in shock, incredibly disappointed, honestly have no idea what happened,” said Healy, the 23-year-old understandably in some tears too. “It will take some time to process, but I had a sense I wasn’t as in control as normal, the last 50m.

“I think tactically I was keen to be near the lead, most of the race. And I didn’t get out very well, tried to catch up and put in a spurt, and even as I did it, I did think, ‘gosh, I hope that doesn’t come back to bite you later in the race’.

From the midway point, Healy was content to sit on Haylom’s heels, before moving on to her shoulder down the backstretch for the last time, then kicking in front.

“I think I was just impatient,” Healy added. But honestly, I think I was in complete shock, I can’t believe that happened, to be honest. It certainly feels like a wasted opportunity for sure. But I felt great, and handled my nerves in fairness. I was happy with all other aspects of the race, until the last 50m, but I normally finish races pretty strong.”

There was some gentle elbowing from Haylom as she came past, only nothing to merit the intervention of the track judges: “I think I made enough tactical errors in that race to justify that happening in the end, so it was probably just me, I don’t know. I just should be through that heat, comfortably, I just made a big mistake.”

Ireland’s fastest man Israel Olatunde, looking to regain some of his 2022 form, did run a season best of 6.70 in his 60 heats, but that wasn’t enough to progress.

Irish medal hopes on Sunday now turn to Sarah Lavin in the 60m hurdles, having made the final two years, although she comes up against two recent world record holders, Bahamian star Devynne Charlton running 7.67 in New York earlier this month, before Tia Jones equalled that at the US Indoor Championships.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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