A groin injury ruined Brian Gregan’s hopes of a medal at the European Athletics Championships, with a brave performance seeing him struggle over the line after being in the top three throughout the 400m final in Helsinki.
The European under-23 medallist suffered the injury 80 metres into the decider in the Finnish capital, yet almost held on for a deserved place on the podium.
Gregan had started solidly, and looked to be in fine form as he stormed down the closing straight in third position.
But the Clonliffe Harriers athlete pulled up in the final ten metres as he finally succumbed to the pain, stumbling over the line in sixth.
It was only afterwards that the full extent of the injury became apparent, as Gregan revealed he had suffered the groin pull shortly after the start: “My groin went after 80 metres. I was thinking of dropping out. I kept going but lost out in the last 50.
“My groin just went. I tied up because of it near the end and lost my medal. Oh well, what can you do? These things happen.”
Czech Pavel Maslak took gold in 45.24 seconds, with Hungarian Marcell Deak-Nagy in second, Yannick Fonsat of France in third, with Gregan sixth in 46.04 – 22-hundredths of a second away from a medal.
Earlier, Jessie Barr finished eighth in the final of the women's 400m hurdles. She admitted losing her stride pattern in lane two midway through the race, falling away in the final straight.
Her time of 56.83 was not enough to qualify her for the Olympics, as Irina Davydova took glory for Russia with a world-leading time of 53.77 ahead of Denisa Rosolova of the Czech Republic in second and Anna Yaroshchuk of Ukraine in third.
The Ferrybank AC hurdler from Waterford said: “Eighth in Europe? I can’t complain with that. To be in a final is brilliant but I’m gutted with how the race went. To be honest, it couldn’t have went worse.”
Barr is now looking to add some extra races in Europe to her schedule in her bid to qualify for the Olympics in London.
Remarkable drama saw Paul Hession qualify for tomorrow's final of the men's 200m, having thought he had not done enough to go through.
The Athenry sprinter had finished fifth in his semi-final to put him out of the running for a spot in the decider - but the disqualification of Greek Likourgos-Stefanos Tsakonas allowed Hession a berth through as a fastest loser.
Hession’s time of 20.84 seconds was nine-hundredths slower than his season’s best of 20.75 in the morning heats, but was enough to squeeze him into the final – just.
Still trying to take in the news, Hession beamed: “I’ll take it. I’m not too happy with my performance and it means I will get lanes 1 or 2 as opposed to 7 or 8, but I’m in a final again.
“It’s my third European final so I’ll take it. Maybe I can try and beat my best of sixth!”
It was the first time this week that a disqualification went Ireland’s way.
Mullingar’s Steven Colvert had in the morning session been dismissed from the 200m due to drifting out of his lane on the tight Helsinki track, having done enough to reach the semis as a fastest loser.
Pitch-widening ordered of the Finnish FA by FIFA two years ago led to a relaying and realigning of the famous Olympic Stadium track, and it hasn’t finished claiming victims yet.
Colvert said: “21.24 is the slowest I’ve run all year, and it’s come at the European Championships.
“I knew (it was going wrong) as we came off onto the closing straight. Usually I would start making ground real quick but the bends are very tight and hard to navigate. I found myself stepping wide and never got it back.”
Amy Foster bowed out in the heats of the 200m by finishing sixth in her heat in a time of 24.04 seconds, but had been suffering from illness.
Yuriy Borzakovsky claimed the one title he was lacking by winning European 800m gold eight years after being crowned Olympic champion in Athens. Untroubled by the rest of the field, he won in 1 minute, 48.61 seconds.
The third Russian gold of the day was annexed dramatically by Yelena Arzhakova in the women’s 800m, as she pulled from third to first in the closing 50m, with Britain’s Lynsey Sharp coming from well back in fourth to grab silver. Irina Maracheva, having looked like a winner, only had bronze to console herself with.
A golden time for Britain too, as they won two golds via Rhys Williams in the men’s 400 hurdles and Robbie Grabarz in the high jump.
Ukraine matched this thanks to tremendous field performances from Olha Saladuha in the triple jump and Vira Rebryk in the javelin, as German favourite Christina Obergföll fell short in second.
Germany did console themselves with two shot put golds from David Storl and Nadine Kleinert, while Sweden has a new athletics heroine to join the annals of Bergqvist and Klüft – Moa Hjelmer pulled off a major shock to win the women’s 400 metres.