For Ciara Mageean, the road to Rio runs through Amsterdam, and the journey starts today.
The 24-year-old will make her long-awaited return to international competition in the heats of the women’s 1500m this evening, the first time in four years she has represented her country.
Mageean was a world junior silver medallist over 1500m in 2010 and widely touted as the future of Irish athletics, but her career was derailed by chronic injury problems in recent years.
However, the UCD athlete is firmly back on track, having secured Olympic 1500m qualification late last year in Rieti, Italy.
Though she will no doubt have one eye on the bigger picture of next month’s Olympic Games, Mageean is adamant that she can make an impact in Amsterdam.
“I want to have a good, competitive championships,” she said. “Obviously, it’s a stepping stone to the Olympic Games, but I want to race to the best of my ability then hopefully step it up for Rio. I want to do myself and my family proud.”
Mageean has been in impressive form this season, clocking a swift 2:02.84 for 800m in recent weeks and taking the national 1500m title with ease in 4:24.33.
Though she is drawn alongside race favourites Sifan Hassan and Angelika Cichocka in today’s heats, Mageean looks capable of securing one of the four automatic qualifying spots in Sunday’s final.
For the past number of years, she has been coached by former Olympian Jerry Kiernan, who she meets most days at her base near UCD. “I’ve built a nice team here,” she said. “I’ll be based in Dublin for the foreseeable future; Jerry is here so I’m here.”
Shortly after the Olympics, Mageean will return to Dublin to complete an eight-week physiotherapy placement, which she had put on hold in recent months to enable her to train full-time.
“It’s such a weight off my shoulders,” she said. “It’s allowed me to stay injury-free and really helped me to plan. I always manage to have a busy day, but the biggest thing is to set aside time for resting. Training is going really well.
“The Europeans will be the first championships in many years, so I’m really doing it to get back into the championship mindset to get me a bit more prepared for Rio.”
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