Mark English and Efrem Gidey complete long and different journeys on final night of European athletics in Munich

Sarah Lavin also nails fifth in 100m hurdles final after running personal best in the semi-finals

Irish Times – Ian O’Riordan – 21 August

“It’s not a long way from Zurich to Munich in distance only sometimes it is in time, Mark English bridging that eight-year gap between European Championship medal podiums with another masterful display of 800 metre running that duly earned him a second bronze medal.

Just as in Zurich back in 2014, English combined his talent and class and head for running to produce the near perfect race, exactly where he expected to be coming into the home stretch and only losing out to two World champions. He never lost sight of his medal winning position, his eyes like chips of ice as he kept watch on those around him, the experience of the now 29 year-old Donegal doctor also counting considerably in the end. He simply refused to die.

Mariano Garcia, the World Indoor champion from Spain, took the win in a best of 1:44.85 after striking for home at the bell, Britain’s Jake Wightman, the World 1,500m champion, only getting past English down that home stretch to take silver in a season best of 1:44.91.

Then came the Finn Valley runner, always safe in third, his time of 1:45.19 plenty good to hold off Andreas Krammer, the Swedish runner who won silver four years ago.

“I was holding on, absolutely flat out at the finish,” said English, getting his race tactics spot on for the third race running this week. “I knew Jake would be strong in the last 100m, he’s the 1,500m World champion, and I’d a feeling Garcia would make his move at the same point as the semi-final, so I just moved to the front, and figured if I could slot in behind him on the inside rail it would be a good move. So thankful to come away with a medal, it worked out exactly how I thought it would.”

It was a second Irish medal on the track in Munich, adding to Ciara Mageean’s 1,500m silver. English also has two European Indoor 800m medals, silver from Prague in 2015 and bronze from Glasgow in 2019 – and now joins Sonia O’Sullivan (five) and Derval O’Rourke and Mageean (two each) in that elite club of multiple Irish medal winners at European Championship level.

It was a fourth championship medal in all for English, a first for his coach Feidhlim Kelly at the Dublin Track Club, who took English under his wing two years ago and has clearly helped get his mojo working again – English certainly acknowledging as much.

It’s a very long way to Munich from Eritrea, via a series of refugee camps including several months in the French port city of Calais, from where in 2017 Efrem Gidey first arrived in Ireland with no running experience whatsoever.

Two years after that, in his first international race for Ireland, Gidey was on the medal podium at the European Cross-Country, winning bronze in the junior race behind a certain Jakob Ingebrigtsen. Still just 21, Gidey came another very long way in Munich by finishing sixth in the 10,000m final, running a personal best of 27:59.22 – two seconds faster than his previous mark – in a properly tactical championship race which should have proved years beyond his experience.

There were surges and counter-surges, athletes getting bunched and strung out, still Gidey never lost ground, holding his place in the top six over the last few laps when far more seasoned athletes started to melt away in the cauldron that was the old Olympic Stadium.

Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa timed his run perfectly too, taking the win in 27:46.13 approaching the line from Norway’s Zerei Mezngi, who looked to have raced clear with two laps to go; Gidey still full of running at the finish, his journey at senior European Championship only beginning.

“So happy and grateful, I wanted to challenge here, and looking to go much better the next time,” he said. “Every race I’m improving, and it’s more experience for me, and I know there is better times to come.”

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