PAUL HESSION made this evening’s final of the men’s 200m among the fastest losers after a nail-biting wait at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona last night, where Ailis McSweeney failed by a mere 100th of a second to make the final of the women’s 100m.
Hession was always among the favourites to make it to the final and will still go to the line tonight among the possible medallists, despite his minor setback.
He had to battle his way around the bend on a track that was still soaking from the earlier thunderstorm — he had to warm up in a deluge — and got himself into position for a good finish. It appeared as if he might even challenge Jaysuma Saidy Ndujre (Norway) and Marlon Devonish (Great Britain) until the last 50 metres.
He ended up fourth in 20.67 secs behind Saidy Ndure, 20.50, Devonish, 20.55 and Martian Mbandjock (France), who finished strongly to take third in 20.62.
He had to sit it out until after the second semi-final which was won by Christophe Lemaitre (France), now the big favourite to complete the double. The fourth and fifth finishers here were slower than the Athenry man, who now becomes the first Irish sprinter to make a final in a major championships.
“If my last 50m was as good as it should have been I would have been third,” he said. “But it’s fine and I am through. Lane 2 is good — I’ve run an Irish record from Lane 2 — but I’d be glad to run a final from any lane right now.
“I was in a good frame of mind, I felt good warming up but I was surprised and disappointed when I missed out on third place.
“But I know I have done everything I could have done and I just have to let it roll now. I have 24 hours to recover. I’ll head back and relax in the room with Mr Gillick and we’ll both come out tomorrow and give it a go.
“It is still going to be tight. It’s not going to be anything ridiculous to win a medal. I think the bronze medal is available. If I can just get in the mix off the bend I’ve got to trust my strength up the straight.
“Tomorrow’s another day. I know I can take Mbandjock and I’ve beaten Marlon (Devonish) and Christian (Malcolm) in the past so maybe it’ll be revenge for the Olympics.
“You dream about championships finals. Tomorrow is what I have trained for and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it no matter where I finish.”
Ailis McSweeney turned in what has to be regarded as one of the most impressive performances ever by an Irish sprinter to finish sixth in her semi-final of the women’s 100m.
Her time of 11.32 secs was inside the national record which she set at 11.40 secs a couple of weeks ago, but a following wind that was just 0.2 m/s over the legal limit will deprive her of a new record.
The only disappointing aspect of the whole thing was the fact that she failed by just 100th of a second to get through to tonight’s final, edged out by the Russian sprinter, Anna Gurova, who posted 11.31 secs for fifth place in a race that produced the two fastest losers.
“It’s devastating, I can’t believe it,” she said. “Once again I needed a dip that I did not have but at least I was in that position. If I was that position again right now I think I’d do better in the last 10 metres. That’s where I felt I let myself down a little bit. I tensed up knowing it was so tight. Maybe if I’d relaxed a little bit more it would have been different.
“It is important that I know I am running my best when it comes to those big races. It was grand running a national record but if I didn’t do anything with it coming in here it would be a big disappointment.
“I am going to really concentrate on the next few years. There are a lot of things coming up. There’s London 2012, there’s worlds, Europeans every two years now so the next two or three years will be really big for me.
“It is going to be a mix of happiness and disappointment after this because that was a really big chance to make a major final. But I am going to look back thinking this is where things changed for me and I am going to move on from it.”
The final was won by the winner of her semi-final, Verena Sailer (Germany) in 11.10. David McCarthy, after all the drama of the first round, finished sixth in his semi-final of the men’s 800m in 1:49.14.
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