Mark English is Ireland’s latest sporting hero, winning bronze in the men’s 800m at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.
A fantastic trademark kick from the Letterkenny athlete saw English overhaul the fastest man in Europe this year, Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, as Poland took gold and silver through Adam Kszczot and Artur Kuciapski.
21-year-old English held off fast-coming Dane Andreas Bube to win the bronze – only Ireland’s 13th medal in the history of European Championships since they started in 1934.
The Donegal athlete had been sixth at the bell in a brisk but tightly-bunched field, but pounced in the final fifty metres to earn glory.
Kszczot won in 1:44.15, with Kuciapski claiming silver at 1:44.89. Then on 1:45.03 came English.
It’s the culmination of a winning season for the UCD AC athlete from Donegal, who only narrowly edged into the final by virtue of a fastest loser’s place in Wednesday’s semis.
Derval O’Rourke’s silver in the 100m hurdles and Rob Heffernan’s to-be-ratified 20k walk bronze both from 2010 were the last European Championship medals won by Ireland at an outdoor games.
“I felt so much energy over that last 100 metres,” English said before the medal ceremony.
“It’s strange when you feel so fresh after two previous rounds, but I said I would just try and replicate what I did in New York in the Diamond League.
“It was similar competition, I beat the two Poles over there too.
“Bosse burned up in that last 100 metres but I heard he finished last.
“I’m just happy I have a medal, I’m absolutely delighted I did it for everybody out there.
“It could have almost been second but well done to the Polish guys, they timed their kick well. I’m just happy with bronze today.”
Earlier, Rob Heffernan withdrew from the men’s 50k walk with 10 kilometres to go and lying sixth. Brendan Boyce took three minutes off his personal best to finish 16th in 3 hours 51 minutes, 34 seconds as Yohan Diniz won his third consecutive European title in a world record time of 3:32:33.
Heffernan said afterwards: “Sixth didn’t appeal to me. After winning the World Championships last year, the only thing I wanted today was to win. I wanted to win the European Championships.
“It didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to. It’s very disappointing.”
In the early track action, Paul Robinson and Ciarán O’Lionáird qualified for Sunday’s 1500m final.
Robinson qualified automatically by finishing fourth in the second semi in 3:39.83 – a slower race than the opening semi which featured Ó Lionáird and John Travers.
Ó Lionáird finished seventh in 3:39.79, Travers 14th in 3:49.73.
Switzerland has a new athletics hero other than exuberant mascot Cooly, as Kariem Hussein eased off Estonian Rasmus Mägi to win men’s 400m hurdles gold. Third was Russian Denis Kudryatsev.
Double Dutch glory too - Dafne Schipper’s marvellous 2014 continued as she did the sprint double, winning the 200m ahead of Britain’s Jodie Williams and Myriam Soumaré, while Sifan Hassan surged to an excellent women’s 1500m success ahead of Swede Abeba Aregawi.
Martyn Rooney led a British 1-2 in the men’s 400m, while in a shock result, Libania Grenot of Italy won the women’s 400m hurdles, with world champion Christine Ohuruogu out of the medals in fourth.
The men’s high jump and women’s hammer would ensure a late finish.
— Will Downing, Zurich