Mark English has qualified for the semi-finals of the 800 metres at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing – but had an anxious wait before progressing.
The UCD athlete from Letterkenny was run out of it in his first-round heat of the two-lap event at the Birds Nest, coming fifth in 1:46.69, with the fastest man in the world this year, Amel Tuka of Bosnia-Herzegovina, taking the honours in 1:46.12.
In contrast, English earned Olympic qualification thanks to a spectacular 1:45.49 at the London Diamond League meeting after having his European Under-23s chances ruined by injury.
The double European medallist had looked comfortable in the first 700m, keeping up with the pace, with as has happened a few times this summer, found himself outpaced in the final straight.
With three heats still to go, English was tentatively perched in the second fastest-losers spot with six of those to go through.
As it turned out, only two other athletes would be unplaced in times faster than him, meaning he takes his place in tomorrow’s semi-finals as fourth fastest loser.
“I’m through to my first ever semi-finals at a World Championships and I’m delighted with that,” English said this morning.
“There was a tie-up. I was talking to the American Erik Sowinski after and he felt the same way. Looking at the other races, a lot of the others looked like they felt that too.
“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.”
World University Games champion Thomas Barr is the other Irish athlete in action on the opening day, with his 400m hurdles heat taking place just before 2pm Irish time.
The Ferrybank AC hurdler from Waterford has the fourth-fastest season’s best in his heat, where the first four and next four fastest losers will all qualify for tomorrow’s semis.
The first gold medal of Beijing 2015 went to a 19-year-old Eritrean in the men’s marathon.
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie clocked 2 hours 12 minutes 28 seconds in clinching a remarkable triumph, with Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay with the silver, 40 seconds down, and bronze going to Munyo Solomon Mutai of Uganda, a further 22 seconds back.
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.
There were no Irish entrants in the event.