New Woodies DIY National Senior Indoor 800m champion Mark English will not compete in next week’s European Indoor Athletes Championships in Gothenburg and will instead focus on two summer championships.
The UCD physiotherapy student reclaimed the title he won in 2011 at the Odyssey in Belfast with a burst before the final lap to clock 1:48.44 at the new Athlone Institute of Technology International Arena on Sunday.
English’s Letterkenny AC stablemate Darren McBrearty led the field for almost three-quarters of the race but had to be content with silver - as had been the case two years ago - in 1:50.23.
“Tactics are never really set in stone but I had a few plans I put in place,” English said. “I was lucky enough to predict that Darren was going to take it out hard to try and burn me off as he mightn’t have the same speed as me over the last 200 metres. I say that because Darren is a 1500m runner while I’m more a 400m or 800m. It was a huge boost to my confidence early in the year.”
In winning, English made the standard for Gothenburg but on consultation with his coach, Teresa McDaid, will concentrate his efforts on his studies for now and championships later in the year.
“I’ll not go to Sweden as I have decided to focus on the European U-23’s in July and the World Championships in August,” 19-year-old English said. “I made the decision with my coach as it would be a bit hard to do three championships in the one season, especially since the European Indoors are on at the start of March.
“That would mean lactate training from now pretty much up till the end of August, which is too hard on the system. I can tell you 800m running takes a lot out of the system. It’s best if I aim for the two championships.”
English acknowledges this European U-23 Championships in Tampere, Finland, represents an opportunity to make up for the disappointment of failing to make the 800m final in Estonia two years ago.
The former St Eunan’s College in Letterkenny student was in a storm of controversy in Tallinn having initially been placed in second in his semi-final before being demoted to fourth and consequently missing out on a final place by one hundredth of a second following an appeal from Turkey’s Halit Kilic.
English’s frustrations would probably have grown the following day when his protagonists took three of the top four places in the final. France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse took gold ahead of Slovenia’s Žan Rudolf, while Kilic finished fourth behind Sweden’s Johan Rogesredt.
“I’ve some unfinished business at U-23 level as there’s a few fellas I need to beat,” he continued. “Bosse from France won the European Juniors two years ago when I failed to make the final so I’d like to get my own back there. Rudolf is another man I’ve had healthy competition with. These two will be the main contenders.”
Then, there’s the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Moscow, from August 10th to 18th, which will see English, if he qualifies, compete at world senior level.
“As for the World Championships, well, that will be my first senior championships if I can get there. It will be a huge experience and if I was to get there, I’d love just to make it to the final because, as we saw in the Olympics, anything can happen in an 800m final.”
English shattered his own Irish Junior record with a stunning run in Belgium at the end of last May, comfortably winning the 800m at the International Flanders Athletics Meeting in Oordegem, Belgium with 1:45:77.
However, he missed out on the Olympic A Standard by 0.17 of a second and had to be content to go to London as a spectator only three weeks after coming fifth in the World Junior Championships in Barcelona.
There, Nigel Amos of Botswana ran a championship record and second place went to Timothy Kitum of Kenya, in 1:44.56. In London, Amos was the man chasing home David Rudisha’s world record run of 1:40.91, winning the silver medal with Kitum winning the bronze. English wondered what might have been.
“I was at the Olympics and have watched that 800m final a lot of times since,” he said. “I’m not saying I would’ve even made the final but it was hard sitting there watching the semi-final and final.
“But I can’t sit looking back and wondering what might have been. I must look forward. That’s why I have decided to focus on my age group as I won’t be under 23 forever. I’ve one more championship left after this year and can focus on the senior events later in my career.”