Mark English has bowed out of the World Athletics Championships at the first hurdle, missing out in the first-round heats of the men’s 800m, writes Will Downing.
The twice European medallist, who has been fighting injury for a lot of the season, came home fifth in his heat in 1:48.01 – almost three seconds outside his season’s best of 1:45.42 set in June’s Stockholm Diamond League meeting.
English kept out of trouble deliberately at the back for most of the race, along with twice European champion Adam Kszczot of Poland, but made a big move to step up when the pace increased after the bell.
However, English’s usual kick was nowhere to be seen as he crossed the line fifth behind winner and new favourite Nijel Amos of Botswana, who took the heat in 1:47.10.
Having finished second behind David Rudisha’s world record performance at London 2012, Amos is seeking to take full advantage of Rudisha’s absence through injury this time around.
Pierre-Antoine Bosse of France and Kszczot also automatically qualified by finishing in the top three, but as it was the slowest of the six heats, none of the others had a realistic chance of making it through as a fastest loser.
Of the 47 starters, English positioned himself 34th overall, and was the 15th fastest loser with only the six best of those making it – 1:46.42 was the slowest time of the non-automatic qualifiers, and that in a time fastest than Amos’ in winning his heat.
English admitted afterwards: “I knew it would be a sprint finish. There was nobody in that field that front-runs races usually.
“I wanted to make sure I had enough over the last 200 metres. That wasn’t there today unfortunately.
“I’ve struggled for that all season with my injury, but that’s the way these things go sometimes.
“I go into every race thinking I can beat anybody. I knew Nijel Amos was going to be the big name this year.
“He had a few cards that others didn’t, but I’ve beaten the others before. It was just a matter of not getting the training done this year that I wanted, and I didn’t have it over the last 200 today that I needed.”
In better news however, Brian Gregan did get through his first-round heat of the men’s 400m earlier.
He time of 45.37 was only 0.11 seconds outside his lifetime best set last month, and he lines up in tomorrow evening’s semi-finals at the London Olympic Stadium.