Ciara Mageean Completes Her European Medal Set

Ciara Mageean completes her European medal set

Irish star muscles her way to 1500m gold as Britain’s Georgia Bell lands silver, while Lizzie Bird grabs steeplechase bronze

Strange things can happen in middle distance races. There are ebbs, flows, surges and sidesteps and as the chess pieces move so gaps can open where previously there were none.

Ciara Mageean

As the leaders came around the final bend during the final of the women’s 1500m at the European Championships in Rome on Sunday night (June 9), Jemma Reekie and Georgia Bell had seemingly formed a British barrier that would be difficult to scale. They left Ciara Mageean with a choice to make – check her stride whilst in full flow with the finish line bearing down and try to go around it, or hold her nerve and attempt to go through it.

CIARA MAGEEAN COMPLETES HER EUROPEAN MEDAL SET

Suddenly a chink of daylight did appear and Mageean needed no invitation to take advantage. The 32-year-old from Portaferry grew up playing the Irish sport of camogie, a stick and ball game that also requires plenty of physicality. She called on those skills, muscling her way into the lead and sprinting for a gold she wanted so badly.

That moment seemed to disturb Reekie, who had put herself in a great position, and she began to tie up, ultimately fading to fifth. Mageean was not about to let first place fall from her grasp and stormed clear to hit the line in 4:04.66 a capture Ireland’s second gold medal in the space of 48 hours. Bell, taped up after being spiked in the heats and coming perilously close to a serious Achilles injury, stayed the course to win the first major honour of her career in 4:05.33 as Frenchwoman Agathe Guillemot completed the podium in 4:05.69.

“That was true middle distance running out there, where you need to be tough, take your gaps and show your strength and your grit,” said Mageean. “I had written in my notes ‘have patience’ and in the 800m and 1500m it often opens up.”

CIARA MAGEEAN COMPLETES HER EUROPEAN MEDAL SET

There have been times when Mageean has been severely tested by her chosen sport and needed to call on that patience, whether that be the injury problems that stopped her from competing at as an under-23 or the championships performances that didn’t quite go to plan. She came to Rome with a European bronze from 2016, a silver from 2022 and now she has completed the set.

Georgia Bell (Getty)

For Bell, this was also a moment to savour. Her story has been told many times now, but the former English Schools 800m champion (also a world age group duathlon champion) lost her love for athletics and stepped away.

Her decision to step back in and begin working with Trevor Painter again has been a wise one. So, too, has the sabbatical she took from her job in cyber security to concentrate fully on the pursuit of an Olympic dream.

As she put it: “I just couldn’t stop smiling on the start line, this is just so fun to be here. I should be at work tomorrow morning, but I’m here competing at European Championships, so I am very happy.

“I was worried I might miss out on the medals but I came fourth at the World Indoors and I didn’t want that to happen again. I know what that feels like.”

“Even six months ago I would have thought you were crazy if you told me I’d win a European silver. I was unranked, unsponsored, my PB in the 1500m was 4:06, which was nothing to get you anywhere near here. To see where I am now [a PB of 4:00.41], I am very proud of myself and I am excited for the future.”

For Reekie, albeit the 800m is her specialist event, there will be a nagging feeling of an opportunity missed.

“It’s disappointing – I truly felt I could get a medal but I’ll talk to my coach about it. I was getting clipped all the way round but that’s 1500m running for you. I’m always learning from these events. There’s a lot we got right, and a few things we got wrong.”

Katie Snowden completed the British trio of finalists in ninth place in a time of 4:06.83.

CIARA MAGEEAN COMPLETES HER EUROPEAN MEDAL SET

There was further medal success for Britain to celebrate in the women’s 3000m steeplechase as Lizzie Bird emulated her performance from Munich two years ago in winning European bronze.

The Boulder-based national record-holder had put herself firmly in contention but wasn’t able to quite match the closing pace of Alice Finot, the Frenchwoman winning in a European lead of 9:16.22, or German Gesa Krause (9:18.06). Finot was disqualified at one stage for an infringement on the inside of the track but, at the time of writing, had been reinstated on appeal.

However, she was hardly disappointed with a podium finish and a season’s best of 9:18.39 that is inside the Olympic qualifying standard.

CIARA MAGEEAN COMPLETES HER EUROPEAN MEDAL SET

There had also been hopes that Elliot Giles, team captain for these championships, could add to the British medal tally in the men’s 800m. However, the middle distance gods were not smiling on him and he could find neither an excuse nor an explanation for a run that saw him finish seventh in 1:47.06.

The medals went to Gabriel Tual of France (1:44.87), Spaniard Mohamed Attaoui (1:45.20) and Italian Catalin Tecuceanu (1:45.40).

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