Ciara Mageean has become the first Irish athlete to qualify for a 1500m final since Sonia O’Sullivan in 1997.
The twice-European Championships bronze-medallist took fifth place in her semi-final in Doha, which took ages to get going.
Mageean’s time of 4:15.49 may have been 14 seconds outside her lifetime best set earlier this year at the Herculis Diamond League meeting in Monaco, but that’s frankly irrelevant, as this was all about survival.
A slow semi saw the entire field bunched together for the first three laps, with Mageean at the front almost the entire way alongside Britain’s Sarah McDonald, as no-one wanted to take up the early impetus.
10,000m champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands was happy to be right at the back with a lap to go, where Mageean and McDonald still led.
The acceleration finally came at the bell, with Mageean pushing strongly alongside McDonald right at the front, as Hassan made a major move on the outside.
A group of six was clear in the closing straight, with only the top five plus two best fastest-losers making it through to the final, and with the field dawdling for a lot of the contest, sixth-place was not going to be a guarantee.
Three-time European champion Hassan took control to edge out the USA’s Shelby Houlihan on the line – 4:14.69 to 4:14.91 – with Rababe Arafi of Morocco third (4:14.94) and Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon fourth (4:15.49).
That meant a serious joust for the fifth and final automatic qualifying spot for Mageean, but McDonald had put too much into the earlier leading laps and was spent, finishing almost a full quarter-second behind the Co. Down athlete.
Sure enough, the second semi-final was considerably quicker, with a blanket finish seeing the first eight go through in under 4:02 – 2011 world champion and Olympic bronze-medallist from Rio Jenny Simpson of the USA took the honours there in 4:00.99, with European champion Laura Muir comfortably through in third.
The race was a very strange one. I’m not really a front-runner when it comes to championships, and I was up at the front.
“But I said ‘That’s alright lads’. If you want me to be up on the front and nobody wants to take it up, I’m not going to go fast.
“I was going to make it very hard for them to get past me, and take everything to the line, and through the line.
“Through the line, through the line.
“Every training session, every young athlete knows when their coach says to go through the line. Absolutely do it - and I’m through to the final.”
It’s Mageean’s first global final at any distance.