For Phil Healy, this was a tough one to take – maybe the toughest. Having built her year around the European Championships, the 27-year-old had to watch as her chances crumbled in the heats of the women’s 400m on Monday night, her time of 53.10, which placed her sixth, she summed up with one simple word: “shocking.”
Healy had run below 52 seconds six times indoors this year, though it was clear she wasn’t quite in the same form outdoors, given her sole race below that was the 51.82 she ran in Geneva in early June. Healy decided to bypass last month’s World Championships to prioritise the Europeans, but it was a move that didn’t pay off.
She ran her usual, aggressive race through the first 300 metres, turning for home looking poised to claim a top-three automatic qualifying position. But then the tank ran dry, Healy wading through treacle over the last 50 metres, unable to summon what was needed and unable, afterwards, to explain what went wrong.
“I don’t know what it was, I felt really good up to 320 and I just didn’t have it the last 80,” she said. “53.10 is shocking. I didn’t know what the story was. It wasn’t my day and it’s very disappointing.”
She will at least have a chance to put the memory behind her this week, given she is also part of the Irish women’s 4x400m that will take part in the heats on Friday. Joining her there will be Sharlene Mawdsley, who clocked 52.63 to finish sixth in her 400m heat on Monday night – also not enough to advance. Mawdsley only got the call-up to compete in Munich last Friday, following the withdrawal of Sophie Becker from the individual 400m.
“Bit mixed,” she said of her performance. “I have to take it; I can’t make the time change. I didn’t expect to be here so to have put in a performance is something. It’s disappointing, I think I’m a better athlete than 52.6.” Looking ahead to the relay, she said: “I can’t wait to leave everything out on the track.”
Mawdsley and Healy will be joined in that by Becker and Rhasidat Adeleke, who received a bye through Monday night’s 400m heats due to being ranked in the top 12 in Europe. Adeleke will open her championships in the 400m semi-finals at 12:16 Irish time on Tuesday, lining up against gold-medal favourite Femke Bol of the Netherlands. A top-two finish is needed to automatically advance.
There were mixed fortunes on Monday night for Ireland’s two athletes in the men’s 1500m heats, with Andrew Coscoran advancing on time after a seventh-place finish in 3:38.74 and Luke McCann eliminated after finishing ninth in 3:40.98.
“I got out there and got the job done, got into the final and I’m happy,” said Coscoran, who over the past 18 months has made semi-finals at the Olympics and World Championships in addition to European indoor and now outdoor finals.
Coscoran had run near the front through the opening lap, explaining that he chose that tactic because “if you get out fast over the first 200, you can kind of pick what position you want in the race.”
He nestled behind the leaders as he hit 400m in just under 58 seconds, 800m in 1:59 and 1200m in 2:58. Coscoran was outside the top four automatic qualifying spots at that point and while he unloaded what he had left to try to claim one of those over the last 200m, he knew as he crossed the line his time was quick enough to advance to Thursday’s final.
“I’ll go back, wash the singlet, wash the shorts, polish the spikes and get ready for the final,” he said. “There is a lot of depth but I think I’m in the mix. I’m just as good as many of the guys in the race. It’s going to be fast so it’s about trying to position yourself where you can come through the field. The aim will be to come through and try snatch a medal.”