BRIAN KELLY from County Carlow mightn’t realise it, but he is one of the reasons that Mark English will line up tomorrow afternoon at the Oympic Games.
English, oh so close to qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London, will take to the blue-coloured Mondo track at the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange for the heats of the 800m around 2.10pm tomorrow.
English won a gold medal at the European Youth Olympic Trials in 2010, when he beat off Charlie Grice from Great Britain and Zan Rudolf of Slovenia in the final.
Grice has since moved into 1,500m competition and will be in action in Rio on Tuesday.[adrotate group=”81″]
Both English and Rudolf have remained at 800m. English goes in heat 6 tomorrow with Rudolf off the mark in heat 1.
It was his meetings with Kelly, then of Knockbeg College, that confirmed to English that he should unlock his talents.
When he was in transition year at St Eunan’ College, English went up against Kelly and won a silver medal at the All-Ireland Schools Intermediate final. English returned to the same event a year later and won gold.
“I had such speed left in the last 200m,” he said later on his first race against Kelly.[adrotate group=”38″]
“I knew that if I had a solid winter before that I’d have been able to beat him. I said then that I’d go back to the drawing board and see what I could do. I went back and beat him.”
Earlier this year, English suffered an injury that threatened to derail his Olympic year.
He suffered a stress reaction in his metatarsal and had to pull out of the World Indoor Championships.
It happened so simply, by stepping into a pothole while running.
He was wearing a protective boot before getting the loan of a low-intensity pulsed ultrasound machine from the Institute of Sport and went on to an ant-gravity treadmill to further speed up the healing process.
English is under coach Steve Magness, who is based in America, since early this year.
English had been a hair’s breadth from London in 2012.[adrotate group=”70″]
At the International Flanders Athletics Meeting (IFAM) meeting in Oordegem, Belgium, English turned in a mesmerising time of 1:45.77.
The run saw him shave over a second off his Irish Junior record of 1:47.09, which he set in Kessel-Lo in 2011.
It was within touching distance of London, but the outstretched fingers couldn’t get skin on the Olympics that year.
He was 0.17 seconds away.[adrotate group=”76″]
He put that behind him and has since won two European medals: he was a bronze medal winner at the 2014 European Championships; and last year he won silver in the European Indoor Championships.
Back in June, English returned to winning ways when he won a fourth Glo Health National Senior 800m title, taking gold in 1:51.48, stating afterwards: “I feel good and hopefully more to come. The priority is Rio. The excitement is starting to go.”
Last year, he was beset by difficulties before finishing in fifth place in the World 800m semi-final in Beijing.[adrotate group=”46″]
They were before his time, but English has previously spoken of his admiration for Seb Coe and Steve Ovett.
“I know I wasn’t around for their heydays but I would’ve scoped their races out on YouTube,” English explained.
“They did some crazy things on the track. They really give me the hope that a European can run a 1:41 over 800m and beat the Africans.”
English spent some time in the winter at a training camp in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
When he came back to Dublin and into his room at UCD, he wrote a time on a piece of paper. It was stuck to the ceiling.[adrotate group=”18″]
“I’ll tell you when I get it,” he said in the spring.
Rio would be the perfect stage.
English has been drawn in lane one, with Marcin Lewandowski in the same heat.
The Pole was the European Indoor champion over 800m in Prague in March 2015, a race in which Letterkenny native English took home silver.
Lewandowski can run as low as 1:43.72, a time he managed at the Stade II in Monaco last year.
Also in the mix is Brandon McBride from Canada, who came second in a personal best time of 1:43:95 at the Diamond League – part of the Anniversary Games in London – last month. English came fifth in the same race in a seasonal best of 1:45.36. English’s personal best was at the same event in 2013, 1:44.84.
Also included in heat six are Qatar’s Abubaker Haydar Abdalla, with a personal best of 1:45.76; Ghana’s Alex Amankwah (1:45.91); Pol Moya from Andorra (1:48.75), Abdelati El Guesse (1:45.78) from Morocco and Jeffrey Riseley, Australia, 1:44.48.Tags: