Sophie O’Sullivan and Sarah Healy make history in Espoo

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Sophie O’Sullivan (Ballymore Cobh AC) and Sarah Healy (UCD AC) claimed a historic Irish 1-2 in the women’s 1500m at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Espoo, Finland yesterday with O’Sullivan’s medal becoming the first ever gold secured by an Irish athlete at these championships.

Healy and O’Sullivan are no strangers to European success, and both came into the week with lofty expectations as the first (Healy) and second (O’Sullivan) ranked athletes.

Healy looked to control the race from the front and largely managed to dictate proceedings until the final lap where O’Sullivan unleashed a finishing kick which would ultimately see her run to gold in a 4:07.18 PB. Healy crossed just behind in 4:07.36 with Britain’s Shannon Flockhart third in 4:08.37.

Sophie O’Sullivan reacts to European gold

Speaking after the race, O’Sullivan said: “It feels fantastic, I was second five years ago so it’s good to get the gold. The big thing for me was staying as close as possible on the third lap as I tend to get distracted mid-race. It’s great to do it with Sarah and to go 1-2 for Ireland too.

Healy was understandably disappointed to narrowly miss out on the gold medal but was proud of the achievement both her and O’Sullivan had achieved. She said: “I’m disappointed, obviously. Coming in ranked number one, it’s disappointing to finish below that but if someone was to beat me, I’m glad it was Sophie. It’s special for Ireland to get two medals so I’m really glad to be part of that.”

Away from the drama of the women’s 1500m, Cian McPhillips (UCD AC) finished seventh in the men’s 800m final in 1:48.04. The UCD student went out hard to gain a good racing position over the opening lap and speaking after the race he said: “I went for it, I knew I wasn’t really at the races on paper. This year was just about getting some level of normalisation, and to get back running and hopefully push on next year. If you asked me back in January that I’d make a European final this year, I’d have grabbed it with both hands.”

The Irish men’s 4x400m team of Callum Baird, Andrew Egan, Aaron Keane and Ciaran Carthy finished eighth in the final in 3:08.54 following Saturday’s brilliant national U23 record.

Ruby Millet (St Abban’s AC) was the last of the Irish contingent left competing at these championships, finishing 11th in the Long Jump final with a 6.09m following Saturday’s superb outdoor PB of 6.42m. 

Yesterday’s action rounded out what was an outstanding few days for the Irish U23 team. They returned home today with two medals (1500m gold & silver), twelve top tens, three personal bests, and three national records.

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