Mark English admitted he went with his gut feeling tactically to clinch bronze at the European Track and Field Championships on Friday.
The Letterkenny native, who was seventh of the eight finalists at the bell, produced a stirring last 200 metres to land Ireland’s only medal in Zurich.
English, who was competing in his first ever senior championship final, came in third place behind the Polish pair of Adam Kszczot and Artur Kuciapski in a time of 1:45.03, equalling his season’s best.
“I felt so much energy over that last 100 metres,” English said before the medal ceremony.
The UCD Medicine student is currently without a coach having parted company with Teresa McDaid in spring.
However, English showed his own race management excelled having drawn on the experience of his second placed finish behind 800m Olympic champion David Rudisha of Kenya at the New York Diamond League in June.
“It’s strange when you feel so fresh after two previous rounds, but I said I would just try and replicate what I did in New York in the Diamond League,” English added.
“It was similar competition, I beat the two Poles over there too.
“I’m just happy I have a medal, I’m absolutely delighted I did it for everybody out there.
“It could have almost been second but well done to the Polish guys, they timed their kick well. I’m just happy with bronze today.”
English won his first round heat on Tuesday in convincing fashion in a time of 1:47:38 but faced a nervous wait between the two semi-finals on Wednesday to see if he was to make the final as a fastest loser.
English came in just behind France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse on 1:45.94, Kuciapski with 1:46.05 and Andres Bube from Denmark, who clocked 1:46.23.
However, English’s time was better than the winner of the second semi-final, Kszczot, who came in with 1:47.12, meaning the 21-year-old’s time was fourth best overall of the eight finalists.
“Before the final I was probably calmer than before any race in the past and that probably worked to my benefit,” English added.
“I just didn’t have any nerves and just ran my own race. Just to step up a level onto the European medal is fantastic.
“I’m delighted after all the work I’ve put in. I’ve had a lot of disappointments but it’s nice to culminate in a medal like this.”
Yesterday, Ireland’s men’s relay team smashed the Irish record that they’d set on Saturday when finishing fifth in the 4x400m final in 3:01.67.
English ran the second lap in 45 seconds with Brian Gregan, Richard Morrissey and Thomas Barr.
Great Britain, Russia and Poland claimed the top three places.
Mark English joins some of the greats of Irish athletics in winning a Europan medal: Ronnie Delany (1958 - 1500m bronze), Frank Murphy (1969 - 1500m bronze), Eamonn Coughlan (1979 - 1500m silver), Sonia O Sullivan (1994 - 3,000m gold; 1998 - 10,000m gold and 5,000m gold; 2002 - 5,000m silver and 10,000m silver), Mark Carroll (1998 - 5,000m bronze), Derval O’Rourke (2006 - 100m hurdles silver; 2010 - 100m hurdles silver); Rob Heffernan (2010 - 20k walk bronze).