Thomas Barr and Mark English both did enough to qualify for tomorrow’s respective semi-finals at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing – in different circumstances.
English had to endure a long wait before making it through to tomorrow’s 800m semi-final at the Bird’s Nest, while World University Games champion Barr had to produce one of his famous kicks to automatically qualify in third out of his 400m hurdles heat.
Barr, drawn in lane nine, was down in sixth after the penultimate hurdle and had to put a massive surge on up to the final hurdle in order to secure a definite place in tomorrow’s penultimate round.
The Ferrybank athlete came third in 49.20 seconds, still only two-hundredths of a second outside runner-up Rasmus Mägi of Estonia, with Turkey’s former Cuban Yasmani Copello taking a good win in 48.89 – the slowest winning time of the opening round.
Barr admitted afterwards: “I’m glad I had it in me in the final 50, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in the semis tomorrow.
“It didn’t go as I planned. I was hoping to go out faster and secure a good lane for tomorrow.
“Having seen the guys in the heats ahead, I knew I’d have to run fast.
“I thought that it would be a fast track and with the good conditions, it would bring out the best in me – but I had to work a little for it.”
Barr must contend again with making something big happen from lane nine in his semi on Sunday.
Earlier, English struggled in the closing straight of his 800m semi-final to finish fifth, and had to watch the final three heats from up in the TV interview positions before finding out he had got through as the fourth-fastest loser.
The Letterkenny athlete from UCD AC clocked 1:46.69, with the fastest man in the world this year, Amel Tuka of Bosnia-Herzegovina, taking victory in 1:46.12.
But English lost his high position from 75m out, where he had been jostling for second place.
The Donegal man suffered a poor run of form earlier this season due to sciatica, with his chances at the European Under-23 Championships in Tallinn last month sacrificed as a result.
An impressive Olympic qualifying mark set at the London Diamond League meeting boosted his season, despite having to withdraw from the previous night’s Morton Games as a precautionary measure.
Now, as in Tallinn, English must once more run twice in 24 hours, with a bigger performance needed tomorrow to reach the final.
However, the double European medallist is confident he can make something happen: “I’m through to my first ever semi-finals at a World Championships and I’m delighted with that.
“I have to get things in check tomorrow and go out there to run as fast a time as I can.
“It’s my first time in a semi-finals so I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it.
“If you can run 1:46 in the heats here, you have a very good shout of making it through as a fastest loser.
“When I crossed the line and saw the line, I called to (Erik) Sowinski not to panic, that we would probably make it to the semi-finals. And we did.”
The next Irish competitor in action will be Alex Wright in the men’s 20k walk just after midnight tonight Irish time.
A 19-year-old from Eritrea, Ghirmay Gebreslassie, won the first gold of the games in winning the men’s marathon in 2 hours 12 minutes 28 seconds, forty seconds clear of Ethiopia’s Yemane Tsegay, with Munyo Solomon Mutai of Uganda third.
Tsepo Mathibelle of Lesotho led for a large chunk of the second-half of the race, but on the brink of his country’s first ever medal at a World Championships, fell back to finish 14th.
The glare of publicity on this year’s 100m will surely intensify after twice-banned Justin Gatlin clocked the fastest time in the opening round of 9.83 seconds, with defending champion Usain Bolt recording the third-slowest winning mark of 9.96 in a three-quarters-speed pace.