Rhasidat Adeleke after the race. Morgan Treacy/INPHO
pipped to victory

Rhasidat Adeleke settles for silver in 400m European final

Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek pipped Adeleke to gold, with Sharlene Mawdsley finishing eighth.


IT IS A measure of Rhasidat Adeleke’s soaring ambition and astonishing talent that tonight she ran a personal best to win silver in a European final and crossed the line with a face that read a mingling of resignation and deflation. 

Even for a nation as demanding as Ireland – whose long and storied history in European gold medal-winning sprinting stretches all the way back to last Friday night – it would be the height of entitlement for us to be disappointed with anything less than gold. 

Natalia Kaczmarek took gold in a scintillating, world-leading time of 48.98, charging down the last 50 metres to snatch the medal from Adeleke’s itching palms. The initial disappointment – etched all over Adeleke’s face – soon subsided to the impressive standalone facts of her evening. This was Adeleke’s first solo 400m event of the year – she has been racing 100m and 200m events Stateside to improve her speed and keep some energy in the tank down the home straight – and her primary focus is on the Paris Olympics. Tonight was a means, rather than an end in and of itself. 

Nonetheless, Adeleke still clocked a new personal best of 49.07 (down from 49.2) in a European final and has closed the gap on the brilliant Kaczmarek. The Polish athlete took silver in last year’s world final, in which Adeleke finished fourth. That 0.56 gap was slashed to just 0.09 tonight: what’s left of that divide may not survive all the way to Paris, and the rest of Adeleke’s training season. 

Adeleke has been guided by her Texas-based coach, Edrick Floreal – under whom this year’s 100m champion has been revitalised – and the focus in the early part of this year has been to improve her speed over the first half of the 400m; to make her more comfortable from the off so as to be able to bank some energy for the final straight. That remains a slight work in progress, as Adeleke admitted the gap at the halfway point was slightly more than with which she was comfortable. She may have attacked to close that gap a little early, which left the remarkable Kaczmarek within range to pick her off in the endgame. 

Adeleke accelerated around the final bend and had an edge – a glorious, heady edge – on Kaczmarek as they entered the final 50 metres, but it was at that point Adeleke battled the pain. As the tank’s needle slumped down and the lactic acid swelled, Adeleke’s long, loping strides became slightly loose and her back arched. Kaczmarek, meanwhile, charged by.

Adeleke admitted afterwards that she felt heavy-legged after the relay final last Friday: hence we are highly unlikely to see Adeleke running the mixed relay before the individual 400m final at the Olympics. That would threaten the individual medal which Adeleke has tonight shown is a very real prospect. 

Lieke Klaver, meanwhile, managed to piece herself together after her smithereening by Adeleke in Friday’s relay, taking bronze in 50.08, a season’s best. 

Sharlene Mawdsley, billed before the race as an outside shot for the bronze medal taken by Klaver, finished eighth, in a disappointing 51.59, almost nine-tenths of a second from her personal best. She said afterwards she didn’t react to the occasion, struggling in the final 50 metres when surprisingly passed on her inside by Susanne Gogl-Walli, but she suffered too for the emotional and physical exertion of Friday’s relay.


The best part of a week that will go down in Irish athletics history is what it augurs for the future. Both for Paris, and beyond. 

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