Mark English - on the way up and ready for Rio

Mark English - on the way up and ready for Rio
Diarmaid Doherty sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Two weeks out from Brazil, Mark English was in London for the Diamond League Anniversary Games.

He was part of a star-studded field in the 800m and for Mark, a fast time, as opposed to a top finish, was what the race was about.

It couldn’t have gone any better and afterwards, the Letterkenny man took to Twitter to express his satisfaction with his run.

“On the way up and ready for Rio,” he declared.

Mark had just run 1.45.36 - a season’s best by almost two seconds. He’d finished eighth in the race, but that didn’t matter.

Patsy McGonagle believes Mark’s time in London was just the fillip he needed ahead of Rio.

“Deep down Mark has to be really happy to have got into the 1.45 zone before the Olympics,” he said.

“That was an important race and he was able to deliver. At least he knows now where he’s at.”

Missed Out

Back in 2012, Mark missed out on a qualifying time for the London Olympics by just 0.17 seconds.

That same summer, English had dusted himself down and despite a troublesome hamstring problem, finished a very respectable fifth at the World Juniors in Barcelona.

The gold and silver medals that day were won by Nigel Amos of Botswana and Timothy Kitum of Kenya. A month later they would win Olympic silver and bronze.

Amos was back among the field in London two weeks ago and was fourth in that Diamond League meet although his time of 1.44.66 was still not good enough to give him a medal.

Qualify

McGonagle, the Irish team manager, said Mark’s immediate aim in Rio is to qualify from his heat and win a place in the semi-finals.

“Sometimes at events like this, the race isn’t run at a fast pace,” Patsy pointed out.

“Mark needs to qualify from his heat and if he gets to the semi-finals, then he deals with that when it comes.”

McGonagle said the UCD medical student has shown over the years that he has the talent and capability to do well in Rio. It’s his first Olympics and accepts that he was very unfortunate not to make London.

“But that’s athletics and Mark knows that himself,” he added.

“Look at our 4x400m relay team.”

The Irish men’s team missed out on Rio by an agonising seven hundredths of a second at the recent European Championships in Amsterdam.

“That’s what you call really unfortunate,” McGonagle said.

“But again, that’s the sport. That’s athletics.”

Two years ago, in August 2014, there were homecoming celebrations in Letterkenny when Mark arrived back with a bronze medal from the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

The then 21-year-old had gone into the race ranked fourth in Europe, but his time of 1.45.03 seconds secured a bronze at the end of a remarkable race.

It was a day that will live long in the memory for the Letterkenny man who had at last delivered on the international stage.

In 2011 Mark was at Letterkenny’s Market Square when his clubmate at Letterkenny, Ruairí Finnegan, returned with a European Youth Gold from Turkey. That August evening, it was his turn to take centre stage. He was visibly humbled.

“I’m so proud,” he said.

“I can’t really explain it and it’s a cliche to say that but you can’t because I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

That night, Mark took time to mention some of the many coaches who had helped him over the years - people like the now deceased Neil Cullen, Sean McBrearty and Teresa McDaid.

McDaid coached Mark at Letterkenny AC up until he was 21.

“I think the fact that he missed out on London and bounced back so impressively says it all about Mark,” Teresa said.

Special

“The fact that he’s now going to Rio after coming so close to going to his first Olympics in 2012 makes it all the more special for him.”

“He has serious mental toughness and is able for any challenge. You’ve got to remember he got injured earlier this year as well, yet he was able to recover from that. He coped with it and got back on track for Rio.”

McDaid, like Patsy McGonagle, feels English’s recent performance at the Diamond Games meet in London is a major indication of where he’s at.

“It’s an indication that all’s well,” she said.

And as he takes to the line in Rio, he follows in the footsteps of another great Letterkenny Olympian and Letterkenny AC stalwart, Danny McDaid.

“Mark always ticked the right boxes,” Teresa said. “He had all the attributes to be a success. He had the physicality, the mental toughness and the ability to train.

“Now he’s set to become an Olympic athlete and no matter what happens after that, it’s something that nobody can ever take away from you.”