The second day of action at the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow saw two more of Ireland’s eleven strong team compete in their respective events of 400m and Pole Vault in the historic Luzhniki stadium against the best track and field athletes in the world at present.
First up in the morning session was Ireland’s Brian Gregan (Clonliife Harriers AC) who was out to continue his generally positive season so far with a competitive outing over the one-lap of 400m, at this his key season target event – and secure qualification for Monday’s semi-finals.
Gregan has been in good form this season, setting a new personal best time of 45.53 seconds in June in Spain and finishing 5th at the World University Games last month, while regularly recording mid to late 45 second 400m performances over the course of the last number of weeks.
Qualification for tomorrow’s three semi-finals was, as usual at a major championships, not going to be an insignificant challenge. The first four went through along with the four fastest loser competitors from the five 400m heats this morning. With nearly 40 entries from around the world in this event, no one could afford to take anything for granted.
Gregan, 23 and coached by John Shields, was drawn in lane four in heat two, and was up against a strong field that featured the in-form American Arman Hall who had run his PB of 44.82 this season, and likewise the Kazak athlete Masrahi with 44.72.
On the ‘B’ of the bang of the start-pistol, Gregan got off to decent start but seemed a little off the pace going down the back straight with the Brazilian Henriques and the Jamican Francis leading the field into the final turn. Gregan kept working well around the crucial third 100m and came into the home straight tied for 5th place with the American Hall, who also seemed to have got off to a some-what sluggish start in the first 200m.
Driving his big frame down the last 100m and giving it all Gregan crossed the line in 46.04 seconds, good enough for 6th place on the day, and at that point the second fastest loser place for the semis.
At this juncture, Gregan was less than optimistic that he would be able to hold on for one of the four fastest loser place up for grabs; with another three heats to run his albeit solid time looked set to be put under some pressure.
In the event, the ambitious Tallaght man had a bit rub of the green for a change at a major championship, and he qualified as the 3rd fastest loser of 4 for the semi-finals tomorrow. His time of 46.04 was only bettered by one other athlete in heat 4, namely Omar Johnson (JAM) with 45.97, who finished 5th in his heat.
“I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve had my share of bad luck at major championships and I wasn’t particularly expecting any good luck at these! I thought I was out initially, but to run that fast that early in the day isn’t easy for me, I’m not really a morning person. I will be a lot happier running tomorrow evening now in the semis.”
Gregan admitted that the past four weeks have been challenging due to couple of injuries suffered post the World Student Games, and that he was in a race of another kind to try and get to the start line here in one piece and ready to be able to give it 100%.
“It’s a credit to the people around me that I am even here. I haven’t been able to do a lot of the training I’ve wanted to do of late, with my Achilles and knee problems. It’s been tough over the last few weeks but this week has been more positive. To go out and qualify for a World semi while not 100% is unbelievable. I came here not expecting much and now the pressure is off. I’m just going to go out tomorrow and leave everything on the track.”
Gregan will now be rewarded for his hunger and determination with a world championship 400m semi-final place in Moscow Monday night. He goes in the first semi of three and is drawn in lane two, not the worst lane to be drawn in considering his heat time.
Qualification for the final will be the first two in each semi, with the two fastest losers. The Clonliffe Harriers man will not be the fastest of the field on paper going in to his semi – but he will certainly be eager to run as close to or better his PB of 45.53 on the occasion.
In the Women’s Pole Vault qualification this afternoon, Ireland’s Tori Pena (Finn Valley AC) was out to try to make her first pole vault final qualification at a major championships.
Pena has been in excellent form this season, and is the current National Record holder in the event, having cleared an impressive 4.60m in California this June. Going to this afternoon’s qualification Pena was ranked 15th in the IAAF World Rankings for 2013.
In the second qualifying group B of 11 vaulters, Pena first attempted and cleared 4.30m and then progressed to the the height of 4.45m and after two close attempts at clearing it, unfortunately also failed to make it on her third and final attempt and went out of the competition. Pena will be disappointed with her performance this evening, considering the automatic qualifying height of 4.60m for the final was within her current abilities.
I’m disappointed, frustrated. I felt really good, it’s the best I’ve felt in a championships, and I felt really good clearing 4.30, but I had a few problems with my run up. I mean, there’s no excuse. It’s disappointing. 4.55 made it to the final and I feel like that’s well within my reach. I keep improving every year, but I need to get the consistency level at championships. It is hard to hold your peak. I wanted to get the qualifying early, I got it in June. The conditions were perfect, no excuse, very little wind. It was nice and warm.”
Irish Results from Day 2 of IAAF World Championships, Moscow.
Men’s 400m Heats.
Heat 2 of 5: 1. A Henriques (BRA) 45.13 (PB) 2. J Francis (JAM) 45.37 3. M Galvan (ITA) 45.39 (PB) 6. B Gregan (IRL) 46.04
Women’s Pole Vault.
Group B: 1. A Zhuk-Krashnova (RUS) 4.55m 2. J Swobodova (CZE) 4.55m 3. A Savchenko (RUS) 4.55m
T Pena (IRL) 4.30m 0 4.45m xxx
Irish athletes in action on Day 3 (Irish Time).
Brian Gregan (Clonliffe Harriers AC) in 400m Semi-Final 1 of 3 at 17.05pm, (with Q being the first 2 in each semi, with two fastest losers places)