Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1987: Marcus wins World Title #1

Here's the original article from The Irish Times on Marcus's first indoor world championship at 1500 meters. The article makes reference to the absence in the finals of Eamonn Coghlan. Coghlan had been tripped and had fallen in the semi-final heat. He had collected himself and caught up to the front group, but had nothing left for the final sprint and came fifth, thereby failing to qualify for the final. His appeal to be permitted into the final had been denied. The results in the final were:

1. Marcus O’Sullivan (Ire) ................................ 3:39.04 (CR)
2. Jose Abascal (Spa) ..................................... 3:39.13
3. Han Kulker (Hol) ........................................ 3:39.51
4. Jim Spivey (US) ......................................... 3:39.63
5. Mike Hillardt (Aus) ..................................... 3:39.77
6. Dave Campbell (Can) ................................... 3:40.82
7. Dieter Baumann (WG) .................................. 3:41.07
8. Alessandro Lambruschini (Ita) ......................... 3:42.25


Marcus O'Sullivan: it fell on his slim shoulders to avenge a nation and his response was quite breathtaking. Peter Byrne, in Indianapolis, reports on how the Corkman rose to the grand challenge at the Hoosier Stadium

MARCUS O’SULLIVAN deflected the question with the practised ease of a man who may have sensed that, after all the pre-final hype, fate had cast him centre stage in the World 1500 metres indoor championship.

O’Sullivan, the strain creasing the choirboy looks, had just beaten Jose Abascal of Spain in an absorbing finish which brought 20,000 spectators to a fine pitch of excitement in the Hoosier Stadium.

As the blood cooled and the first realisation of victory began to flood his mind, he hit the raw nerve of a controversy which was still refusing to go away.

“A lot of people will ask how Eamonn Coghlan’s absence coloured the race,” said O’Sullivan. “And I figure they are going to go on asking for I’m not sure if I know the answer.

“Eamonn had beaten me twice on the boards this season but I was looking forward to a third meeting. It’s a shame that he had to miss the final for I imagine it would have been some race.”

O’Sullivan, who confirmed his entry for the championships less than a fortnight ago and was still admitting to misgivings about that decision when he arrived in Indianapolis on Thursday, had plotted his title challenge from a back ground of uncertainty.

But, even as the Irishman put his foot on the throttle and hoped, he discovered a new dimension to his character in an absorbing head-to-head duel with Abascal over the last 200 metres.

Just as boxers can never gauge their resilience until they have stopped big punches with their chins, athletes find out the hard way about the inner person.

O’Sullivan’s education was, I suspect, advanced substantially when the story lines of the drama left him alone with the Spaniard in the gaze of much of the sporting world.

In that, perhaps, there was a fine sense of irony for the Irish camp had laid the blame, unequivocally, at the feet of Abascal’s handlers for the refusal of the International Amateur Athletics Federation to permit Coghlan to race in the final. Now it fell on O’Sullivan’s slim shoulders to avenge a nation and his response was quite breathtaking.

Some 250 metres earlier he had gambled, undeniably, in filling a tiny space in the inside lane when Abascal, reaching out for the acclaim of the crowd, made his break and set sail for home.

Jim Spivey, a local who was hoping to celebrate his 27th birthday with the biggest win of his career, and Australia’s Mike Hillardt, were already beginning to weaken when Abascal decided to go.

O’Sullivan, trapped along the curb , was then faced with the difficult choice of a tricky manoeuvre which would take him around the faltering pursuit, or, alternatively, risking a fall by running on the inside track. He gambled on the latter and joyously it worked. Hillardt, tiring, left just enough room for O’Sullivan to squeeze his tiny frame through the gap and once that had been negotiated, there were only two athletes left in the race with a chance.

At the bell, Abascal was clear by a dwindling metre but by the time they reached the top of the back straight, O’Sullivan had taken a fractional advantage. Within another ten metres, however, Abascal, taking the shortest way home, was back in front and at that point we realised that courage and not speed was the essence of survival for the Irishman.

Running shoulder to shoulder in a supreme battle of wills down the finishing stretch, the two principals were still locked together until the final 15 metres when O’Sullivan, in a final surge of strength, got up to win.

It was the second time in less than a month that Abascal had been caught on the line by O’Sullivan and later he was generous in his praise.

“I thought I had done everything right but I knew I was in trouble when I looked around and saw Marcus on my shoulder,” he said, “that brought back some unhappy memories but halfway down the finishing straight, I still thought I could do it.”

Before being taken away for a routine drugs test, O’Sullivan relived the thrills of those closing 50 metres.

“I shut my eyes and hoped as I went for the line and I knew I had made it when I looked around and saw Abascal’s face.

“Never has a finishing straight seemed so long to me and I’ve never been in a head-to-head situation like that. But the sense of achievement is something else.”

O’Sullivan had run the last 300 metres in 40.20 seconds to win in 3.39.04 and, given the sharp competitive element of the race, that bespoke the man’s determination on the day.

As the Irish tricolour was raised and O’Sullivan took his place on the presentation podium, one sensed that his mind had already leapt ahead to Rome in September. No less than the man seated right up in Block A of the stadium and now largely ignored by the crowds, he suspected that there would be another day of reckoning . . . another collision with the man cursed with misfortune yet again here in Indianapolis, Eamonn Coghlan

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