Mageean: 'That was just a disaster... I couldn't get going'
Lost, low and pretty much last - for Ciara Mageean, this was as tough a moment as any, the 25-year-old crashing out of the World Championships at the first stage in London last night, coming home a distraught 13th in the heats of the women's 1500m.
"To be honest, that was just a disaster," she said. "Everybody has seen my season and it had been my best so far and I was going from strength to strength, so to go out and run that poorly…"
It was then she paused, her mind searching for answers to a question she never expected to face, not when a place in the semi-final seemed like such a certainty when she toed the line minutes before. All she needed was to finish in the top six to secure automatic qualification, or be one of the six fastest losers overall.
When the leaders passed 800m in 2:11.44, Mageean ran towards the back, still in touch and appearing ready to strike.
"I was there thinking: 'this is great, I'm as fast as any of these girls if not faster'," she said.
But when the gears started shifting at the front with a lap to run, Mageean's form soon crumbled, the strain apparent as she was left trailing at the back. In the end, she crossed the line equal parts confused and crestfallen in a race won by world record holder Genzebe Dibaba in 4:02.67.
"Everything has been going well, but I don't know what the story is," she said. "Oh god, I didn't even fathom not making it out of the rounds. I knew I could make it through so I've no excuses for that. I just couldn't get my legs to switch on."
Brian Gregan will be the first of the Irish to take to the track today, the 27-year-old Dubliner going in heat four of the men's 400m, which contains four men who have run quicker than him this season. With only the top three guaranteed a spot in tomorrow's semi-final, he will likely need to run quicker than his personal best of 45.26 to progress.
"Everything has been going well," said Gregan. "I've done some big sessions over the last two weeks and it's all building up nicely. If I run a PB, I've got to be happy."
Mark English looks to have a difficult assignment in the men's 800m, the Donegal athlete drawn in heat five alongside gold-medal favourite Nijel Amos of Botswana, world silver medallist Adam Kszczot of Poland and France's Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France, who was fourth in the Olympic final.
Tomorrow morning, training partners Mick Clohisey and Seán Hehir will toe the line just before 11am in the men's marathon, a race where Paul Pollock was a late withdrawal through injury.
Hehir secured qualification with a personal best of 2:16:18 at the London Marathon back in April, so the city will hold fond memories for the 32-year-old Clare man, who will have no shortage of support.
"I have a huge amount of friends, family, people from college, my running club, going over to support," said Hehir.
Clohisey will be looking to put a poor display in the Olympic marathon, the 31-year-old Dubliner coming home 103rd in Rio in 2:26:34 after struggling with chronic fatigue on the build-up. Claire McCarthy will be Ireland's sole representative in the women's marathon tomorrow afternoon, the 41-year-old Cork woman fulfilling a lifetime ambition in what will be her global championship debut.
Irish in action - Today: Brian Gregan, men's 400m heats, 11:12am; Mark English, men's 800m heats, 1:21pm; Tomorrow: Mick Clohisey, Seán Hehir, men's marathon, 10:55am; Thomas Barr, men's 400m hurdles, 11:05am; Claire McCarthy, women's marathon, 2pm.