Digital Desk Staff
While Sunday could be a big day for Team Ireland, there was still plenty of Irish athletes in action on Saturday.
- Athletics: Mark English wilts in 800m heats; Sarah Lavin seventh in 100m hurdles heat; Ireland in mixed 4x400m relay final at 1.35pm.
- Equestrian: Ireland 13th in dressage team event as Sarah Ennis laments new testing format.
- Swimming: Daniel Wiffen and Danielle Hill round off Ireland's best Games in the pool since 1996.
- Hockey: Ireland halted by defeated to Team GB, Former Ireland coach Graham Shaw steers Kiwis into knockout.
- Golf: Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy hunt down Xander Schauffele.
Ireland 4x400m Mixed Relay team of Cillin Greene, Phil Healy, Sophie Becker and Chris O’Donnell recorded a time of 3:15.04 to finish eighth in their final.
Earlier, Mark English discovered what regret means after his 800 metres heat during another melting hot session inside the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Saturday morning.
Admittedly in the form of his life, confidence seemingly searing, English simply left himself with too much to do in the final 100 metres, his hopes of advancing ending after he finished fourth in a time of 1:46.75. No comeback from that.
As The Irish Times reports, the Irish runner started the fifth of the six heats knowing the top three were guaranteed to advance, plus the next sixth fastest times, only his heat ended up the slowest of the six (the only non sub-1:46).
Coming into the homestretch English did kick hard, only the three runners in front of him weren’t for catching - Jesus Lopez from Mexico taking the win in 1:46.14 ahead of Eliott Crestan of Belgium and Patryk Dobek of Poland, who finished just .17 of a second ahead of English.
“I’m gutted,” English said. “I was ready for that race. I just got out kicked, there’s nothing else to say, really. “The plan was to stay in contention without wasting too much energy. I felt like kind of got to the front at 200m, and then they all just closed in and got in front of me. At that point, I didn’t feel like it was worth wasting energy to move out but over time I might regret that. It’s tough to take to be honest.”
Later in the morning Sarah Lavin lined up in her heat of the 100m hurdles with another daunting task in terms of qualifying, particularly with world record holder Kendra Harrison in her heat. The American duly took the win in 12.74 seconds, as Lavin finished seventh in 13.16 seconds.
Only the top four places were automatic, although if Lavin had matched her best time of 12.95, run last month, she would have gone through.
“Disappointing, there’s no other way around it,” she said. “The one thing I pride myself on is bringing my best on the biggest day, to not do that is gutting. I think a final is beyond my reach but I do think a semi-final is within it and if I had been 12.95 I’d have been through. It’s my second fastest time ever but yeah, it’s disappointing.
Saturday morning also brought news of the first high-profile doping bust in Tokyo, Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare pulled from her 100m semi-final later in the day after the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced she had tested positive for human growth hormone back on July 19th.
Okagbare, at 32 old for a sprinter, won her heat in 11.05 seconds on Friday: it’s also the latest twist the latest twist in a troubled track and field campaign at the Olympics for Nigeria, as on Thursday, the AIU said 10 Nigerian athletes were among 18 competitors prevented from entering competition in Tokyo after failing to meet requirements for out-of-competition testing.
Team GB brought an end to Ireland's hopes for a quarter-final in the hockey after a 2-0 defeat, giving the girls in green a 5th place finish in the group stages.
Sean Dancer's side needed a win after India got a 4-3 win over South Africa earlier in the day, but a measure performance from Britain was too much for Ireland to surmount.
Speaking after the loss, Nicci Daly, who got her 200th cap in today’s match, said: "We were confident going out against GB because we played them a good bit this year. We have played them a lot over the past few years – we know them quite well. We knew we could beat them, so we felt really good going out. We thought maybe it would happen for us.
"We just didn’t really perform consistently, it’s a bit disappointing, but it is what it is. It’s been a fantastic experience. It’s the Olympics, and at times we definitely matched the best in the world and we can be proud of that. And we can be proud of the team today. I think there’ll be a lot of positives to take forward for the team going into the next cycle."
A final hole birdie for Xander Schauffele has given him a one stroke lead over US Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama heading into the final round of the Olympics golf at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
The American leads on 14 under par after a third round of 68 in Tokyo - but Rory McIlroy is in hot pursuit after he signed for 67 on Saturday.
Four-time Major winner McIlroy made six birdies and dropped two shots in his third round to put himself firmly in medal contention - he is three strokes off Schauffele on 11 under par heading into an intriguing final day.
Shane Lowry meanwhile is a shot further back on 10 under par after he carded a 68. The 2019 British Open winner saw his momentum checked by a bogey on the par five 14th, after he was forced to take an unplayable.
Speaking after Saturday’s third round, McIlroy seemed content with his efforts: “I got to four under after 13 and thought I could maybe squeeze an extra couple of shots out of the round.
“Fourteen was disappointing, but then I bounced back well after the bogey on 16 with a birdie on 17. Overall, it’s a good round of golf that keeps me in contention. Eighteen holes is a lot of golf still, and a lot can happen.”