Rio 2016 Olympics: Mark English clinches 800m semi-finals spot

Mark English ran a composed race in his 800m heat in Rio
Mark English will be in action again in the 800m semi-finals in the early hours of Sunday

Letterkenny man Mark English produced an impressive performance to book a semi-final place in the 800m on the first day of Olympic athletics action.

English, 23, clocked 1:46.40 as he finished third in his first-round heat behind Canada's Brandon McBride and Poland's Marcin Lewandowski.

The UCD student picked his way through the field to clinch his automatic qualifying spot.

English will race in the semi-finals at 02:05 BST on Sunday morning.

The Donegal man only returned to action in June after being out since March because of a foot injury but ran an encouraging time of 1:45.36 at the London Anniversary Games last month.

"You have to trust your own race plan and preparation went really well in Uberlandia," said a composed English after his Olympic debut.

"I treated that race like a final. I'll need to run 1:44 to make the final."

English comfortably held off Australia's 1:44.48 man Jeff Riseley (1:46.93) for the third qualification spot with Qatar's Abubaker Haydar Adballa in fifth spot.

Ciara Mageean won a 1500m bronze medal at the European Championships last month
Ciara Mageean (left) competes in the women's 1500m heats at 00:30 BST on Saturday

Mageean to being Olympic Games challenge

Portaferry athlete Ciara Mageean will make her long-awaited Olympic debut in the women's 1500m heats at 00:30 BST on Saturday while Irish walker Alex Wright is also in action in the 20K event in Friday's programme.

Mageean's opponents in a tough looking heat as she chases one of the six automatic qualifying places will include Ethiopian world record holder Genzebe Dibaba.

Poland's Angelica Cichocka, who took gold at this year's European Championships when Mageean earned bronze, is also in the heat along with American talent Brenda Martinez plus Kenya's Nancy Chepkwemoi.

Three of Mageean's other rivals, Australia's Linden Hall (4:01.78), Dutch runner Maureen Koster (3:59.79) and Morocco's Siham Hilali (4:01.33) have also considerably fastest personal bests than the Irishwoman's mark of 4:06.49.

However, Mageean has not have the opportunity to run in many top level Grand Prix meetings and there is the suspicion that her current personal best is not necessarily reflective of her true ability.

Another county Down athlete Kerry O'Flaherty competes in the 3,000m steeplechase heats on Saturday at 14:05 BST along with Irish team-mates Michelle Finn and Sara Treacy.

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