By Will Downing, Berlin
Mark English and Zak Curran have both been eliminated in the opening round of the 800m at the
European Athletics Championships in Berlin.
Twice European-medallist English looked well off his glory days of 2014-15 by trailing in eighth in his
opening-round heat, and though a couple of disqualifications saw him elevated to sixth, it was not
enough to get a fastest-loser spot for the semi-finals.
À la his medal-winning performances, English hung around at the back for the opening lap and a half,
and started making his move through the field on the outside with 250m remaining.
Though English overtook four back-markers to hit fifth position by the final bend, everybody else’s kick
nullified his own, and the Donegal athlete slipped back to eighth – this year’s form perhaps reflected by
the fact his 1:48.98 was still a season’s best.
English said afterwards: “I didn’t really get out from the get-go, I couldn’t get into a rhythm in an 800m
race, you’re not going to be able to kick-off after that so it was tough.
“There were a lot of variables coming into these Championships, but at the same time you need all
cylinders firing properly.
“It just didn’t fire for me properly from the get-go today. It can happen to the best of athletes so I’m not
going to get down-hearted about it.
“I know I can get back and I’d love to get back.
“I wasn’t comfortable enough bouncing along up to 600m and I wasn’t able to kick off then, and that’s
how the race panned out.
“I’d love to get back out there and win more medals for my country. The two previous medals were
Saul Ordóñez of Spain took the heat in 1:47.95, and though English did have the bonus of seeing Abedin
Mujezinovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Germany’s Marc Reuther both disqualified for separate barging
incidents, he was almost exactly two seconds off a fastest loser's spot.
Team-mate Zak Curran of DSD was involved in a bumping incident himself in the opening lap of his heat,
where he came home seventh in 1:49.31, as Andreas Kramer won in 1:47.87.
Curran reported: It was a bit of a bump, I saw his going but I stayed on my feet. But I lost a bit of
“When I broke, I think I was second or third, precisely where I wanted to be.
“I lost my rhythm when I was coming down towards the home straight for the first lap, I was thinking
that we had all slowed here.
“I knew it was going to be tactical.
“If I’d been a bit stronger, held my ground a bit more when that guy tripped…. Well, it’s a learning
Out of the 33 starters in the 800m, English finished 28th, Curran 29th.
Poland took the two fastest times in the heats through three-in-a-row-chasing Adam Kszczot, whose star
has only risen since being on the medal podium alongside English in Zurich four years ago, and Mateusz
Tonight, Thomas Barr and Leon Reid have to contend with lane eight draws in the finals of the men’s
400m hurdles and 200m respectively, but both are in high spirits ahead of their duel with destiny.
Reid is ranked sixth of the eight on season’s best over the half-lap distance, but his 20.27 set last month
was officially under the British flag – a repeat of that time tonight (or at any point in the future) would
break Paul Hession’s Irish record from 2007.
World champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey is fastest of the field on season’s best, dipping under 20
seconds earlier this summer, and came first ahead of Reid in their semi-final.
Also in the final are the two previous European champions – 2014 winner Adam Gemili of Britain, in lane
2, and the champion from Amsterdam two years ago, Bruno Hortelano of Spain, in lane three.
Barr has the second-slowest season’s best time going into his 400m hurdles decider, but lane 8 may not
be the terrible draw that first assumptions would suggest – Kori Carter won her women’s 400 hurdles
crown out of lane 9 in London last year, and Wayde van Niekirk took the Olympic 400m title in Rio from
Youthful world champion Karsten Wärholm will be strongly fancied to dethrone defending champion
Yasmani Copello of Turkey, the man who took Olympic bronze marginally ahead of Barr in Rio.
Estonia’s Rasmus Mägi remains a major prospect also, having taken silver in Zurich four years ago.