Mark English and Sarah Lavin both said they were “gutted” after being knocked out of their respective events in the first rounds at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo today, English finishing fourth in his heat of the men’s 800m and Lavin seventh in her heat of the 100m hurdles.
“I was ready for that race. I just got outkicked,” said English, who clocked 1:46.75.
“There's nothing else to say, really.”
English, an Olympic semi-finalist in 2016 and three-time European medallist, needed a top-three finish to automatically advance or to be one of the six fastest in the heats outside of that.
However, after he hit halfway in 53 seconds it was clear his only route through was with a top-three finish.
"The plan was to stay in contention without wasting too much energy,” he said.
“I felt like kind of got to the front at 200m and then they all just closed in and got in front of me. At that point, I didn't feel like it was worth wasting energy to move out but over time I might regret that. It's tough to take to be honest.”
English maneuvered his way into position as the field bunched together on the back straight but lost a crucial few meters as Belgium’s Eliott Crestan struck for home.
Mexico’s Jesus Lopez soon kicked past the Belgian to victory, which left English trying to chase down Poland’s Patryk Dobek to take third place, a battle he lost with the European indoor champion.
“I know I had the quality to make it but it's always the case with an 800m runner, it's a different thing doing it. Lots of guys have the potential. But I just didn't have it today unfortunately.”
He said he has no intention of walking away from the sport and immediately committed to competing at next year’s World Championships in Eugene, USA.
It has so far been a breakthrough year for English, having set a national record of 1:44.71 in Spain last month.
“Coming into the year my two goals were to qualify for the Olympics and get a new Irish record and I did that. To ask for anything else was always going to be a bonus. If I'd made the semi-final it would have been a bonus but it's just like I felt like I could have made it. I've had luck in my career, today I didn't. It's a different thing when you go into a championship and you know you're not in shape and you crash out.”
Lavin was on track shortly after and the Limerick 100m hurdler didn’t get off to her usual fast start, trailing to the first barrier and hitting the line seventh in 13.16. While that was the second-fastest time of her career it was well outside the PB of 12.95 she ran in Madrid last month, which would have seen her through if she repeated it today.
“The one thing I pride myself on is bringing my best on the biggest day – to not do that is gutting,” she said.
“I think a final is beyond my reach but I do think a semi-final is within it and if I had been 12.95 I’d have been through. I want to do better, I want to make Ireland proud, I want to do everyone around me justice as to the work they put in. It just wasn’t there today.”
Lavin said she had the best starts of her career during warm-up but in the race itself her key asset deserted her.
“I lost it all in that first hurdle, sometimes it’s just not there – I wish I could tell you why,” she said.
“I’m sure I’m going to look back on this in September or October and be really proud of myself and how far I’ve come to be here but it’s not my dream to be making up the numbers, that’s what’s hard.”
It has nonetheless been a big year for the Emerald AC athlete, who became the second Irishwoman in history after Derval O’Rourke to break 13 seconds.
“It’s come a long way,” she said.
“As a youngster, I came down hard on myself and it didn’t help. I know I’m doing so much right at the moment and I do need to be better, but patience has come with age. I have a very exciting next five years ahead of me and another Olympic cycle within that. You can’t help but look to Derval who’s been there, won a medal at 33 at Euro Indoors, and know it’s still possible because ultimately I want a medal.”