In the wake of an under-performance by an athlete, it may sound trite to cling to the consolation of it being a learning experience, but for Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner at the World Championships in London last night, that seemed the only fair appraisal.
The 22-year-old Dubliner did not run well – she was the first to admit as much herself – and nor did she come close to securing an automatic qualifying spot in her heat of the women’s 800m, but what she did do was acquit herself like an athlete who looked at home in this high-octane environment.
Qualification was always going to prove a nigh-on impossible ask, though Cléirigh-Buttner still went with the leaders as they passed 400m in a controlled 62.33.
However just as they entered the back straight for the final time, she rolled her ankle as a shuffle in the pack caused her to break stride.
Nonetheless she maintained contact with the leaders until the final turn but had no response as they accelerated away up the home straight.
The race was won by Charlene Lipsey of the US in 2:02.74, with Cléirigh-Buttner fading badly towards the end to reach the line sixth in 2:06.54. “I’m proud of how I handled myself but I was a little unfortunate to roll my ankle with 300 to go,” she said. “I was checked back and landed awkwardly. It went alright, considering the circumstances.”
A student at Villanova University in the US, she reflected positively on her year to date, which had culminated with her first senior global championships appearance here in London.
“It’s been a good year,” she said. “There has obviously ups and downs, but I need to get used to competing through the rounds. I’ve definitely got a lot more in me and I’ve a lot of people supporting me in the stands. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be back here and in finals in the future.”
Cléirigh-Buttner had qualified for the event via the IAAF’s quota system – whereby extra places were awarded to the fastest athletes who didn’t have the qualifying time – and afterwards she admitted just getting here had been an achievement in itself.
“I was dealt a good hand of cards,” she said.
“But I’m here to get more than experience. I’d like to compete tough and get to the next round but I came in with the attitude that anything can happen.”
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