For Andrew Coscoran this is when things got serious – both in his career as a whole and at the Olympics themselves. The 25-year-old had gone into his 1500m heat on Tuesday joking around with his competitors, telling them in the call room he was only here “for the craic”, that he wouldn’t make it through to the semi-final.
But the 25-year-old Balbriggan native did exactly that, his reward a place in the Olympic semi-final on Thursday night, where once again he gave a bold, brave account of himself that suggests his steep upward trajectory will only continue.
Coscoran was in there against the world’s best, with world champion Timothy Cheruiyot stringing the field on the first lap, the Irishman hanging on for dear life at the back. In the end, he hung with them right to the line, his 10th-place finish in 3:35.84 just two tenths of a second outside his lifetime best. Such was the distress he put his body under, Coscoran lay flat on the ground for a few minutes after the race and had to be prodded by a volunteer to get to his feet.
“I put it all out there,” he said. “A 56 (second) first lap would take the steam out of you fairly quick. The plan was to stay connected to the pack, no matter where it was, just try hold on. That was the best race of my life. The standard is just crazy at the moment, I just have to get fitter and come back.” Despite coming in as one of the lowest-ranked athletes in the field, Coscoran vastly outperformed that to finish 20th overall.
“The one thing I’ve taken from this is I can compete, I’m a little off but if I get fitter, I’m there,” he said. “I’m a racer at the end of the day. I just need to get a bit more aerobically stronger. Then I can actually use some tactics in the race and then I can kick a few guys down if I’m close enough.” Coscoran had avoided all social media in recent days to keep his focus on the race but a phone call to his mother told him of the buzz his performances had created back home.
“She said everyone in Balbriggan was going crazy so we’ll see,” he said. “I’m absolutely delighted with these Championships. If you had said to me that this was what I was going to do at the Olympics I would have said ‘no chance man, I’m not going to run 3:35 in the semis’ so I’m happy, very happy.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Farranfore’s David Kenny produced an excellent performance on his Olympic debut to finish 29th in the men’s 20km race walk in Sapporo, the 22-year-old clocking 1:26:54 on a hot afternoon in the city, which is 830km north of Tokyo.
"I came in ranked 56th and a top-30 finish so I'm happy enough,” said Kenny, who won silver at the European U-23 Championships last month. “It was a great experience, coming in there was a lot said about me just coming here for experience and learning as much as I could, and I took the opportunity to go out and attack the race and take down as many of the big lads as I could.
“I came through strong, probably the most mature I've raced to date and kept fighting towards the end, so happy enough with my performance and hopefully there’s more to come."
The gold medal was won by Italy’s Massimo Stano who denied the hosts gold, coming home in 1:21:05, with Japan’s Koki Ikeda second in 1:21:14 and his compatriot Toshikazu Yamanashi third in 1:21:28.