DAVID McCARTHY and Ailís McSweeney qualified for the semi-finals of their respective 800m and 100m events on an exciting, and controversial, morning for Irish athletes at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.
McCarthy, through no fault of his, was embroiled in an incredible clash with Holland’s Robert Lathouwers, which resulted in the Dutchman being disqualified.
The incident occurred at the crown of the final bend when McCarthy, who had taken up the lead at the 300m mark, was gunning for home.
Lathouwers, underestimating the strength of the Irishman, tried to barge his way through on the inside. He then veered out in the infield area before deliberately colliding with McCarthy on his return to the track.
McCarthy recalled: “It seemed like he wanted to get revenge. He was watching me on the way out and I could see him coming but I couldn’t do anything about it. I was in front when it happened and I didn’t change my line.”
The Dutch runner crossed the line first and, McCarthy upset by the incident battled on for fifth place in 1:49.53 which got him through to tonight’s semi-finals (7.50pm Irish) among the fastest losers.
“Fortunately my time was decent enough and I have made it through,” he said.
“I was really angry at the finish and I went up and had a quick word with him. It just knocked me for six with 150 to go and it is very hard to get back up to the same pace again when you are tired and you only have that distance left.
“The last couple of championships haven’t gone to plan. I’ve been left wanting in the last 150m or so. We decided to eliminate that possibility today and take it out at 300m. It looked like it was working today until all the shenanigans. It will be the same plan — if it goes a little bit slow get out there and give myself a realistic chance.
“If it’s fast I don’t mind. I’ll sit in and I’ll let my strength tell.”
For McSweeney it was a morning to remember. A fortnight after she broke Michelle Carroll’s 32-year-old 100m record (11.40) she produced a time of 11.52 to advance to this evening’s semis among the fastest losers.
“It felt good, it’s not 11.40 but I think it’s pretty quick for this time in the morning. I felt really good, I felt really bouncy. I am just delighted — that was the big aim — to be in the mix on semi-final or final night.”
Then came another big performance from Fionnuala Britton, a finalist at the world championships in Osaka three years ago, who got through to tomorrow’s 3,000m steeplechase final among the fastest losers when finishing sixth in 9:44.84. Her Sli Cualann clubmate, Stephanie Reilly, faded to finish 10th.
Despite equalling the national record with a best of 4.15m, Tori Pena, failed to make the women’s pole vault final.
Meanwhile Paul Hession will get his campaign underway in this morning’s (10.30am Irish) heats of the 200m where he rubs shoulders with another of the medal favourites, Sebastian Ernst (Germany). Hession gets the prime Lane 5 in the last of the four heats.
Irish team manager Patsy McGonagle, said: “He needs to come out of this heat well to ensure a good lane draw for the semi-final. He needs to win the heat. He has been in tremendous form here and has been working out at the track.”
Gold medal favourite, Christophe Lemaitre (France) goes in the second heat amid rumours that he was carrying an injury into last evening’s 100m semi-finals and final.
The first three go through to the semi-finals automatically along with the four fastest losers. The semi-finals are scheduled for today at 6.55pm, (Irish).
The enigma that is Alistair Cragg gets his 5,000m campaign underway in this evening’s first round heats (5.45pm, Irish).
He competes in the first of two heats which also features Chris Thompson (Great Britain), the silver medallist in Tuesday evening’s 10,000m. Mo Farah, who won that title is named in the second heat in which Mullingar man, Mark Christie, will make his European championship debut.
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