Belfield to Tokyo- Team Ireland Athletics

Image Credit: Athletics Ireland

In the second of our Belfield to Tokyo features, Christine Coffey breaks down the journey of UCD current and former students on Team Ireland’s Athletics team on their way to this summer’s Olympics.


Four UCD athletes have been selected to represent Ireland at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. Both Ciara Mageean and Sarah Healy will be competing in the Women’s 1500m, while Mark English and Sarah Lavin will be representing Ireland in the men’s 800m and Women’s 100m hurdles respectively.


Ciara Mageean

Former UCD physiotherapy student and UCD AC Bears athlete Mageean has had some strong performances since the first lockdown, adding outdoor national records in the both the 800m (1:59.69) and 1000m (2:32.06) to her indoor records over 1500m and mile. A personal best in an astoundingly fast 1500m final at the World Championships in Doha 2019 was enough for the ‘Wee girl from Portaferry’ to qualify for her second Olympics, having reached the semi-finals of the Rio Games in 2016. 29-year-old Mageean is based Manchester, England, living and training with her fellow New Balance teammates, including 2016 Olympian Jip Vastenburg. Mageean will be running in the 1500m event and hoping to join Sonia O’Sullivan in the ‘sub-4 club’ over the course of the games, given the remarkable strength of the field at these Games.

Mark English

The sprinter from Letterkenny studied medicine in UCD, where Dublin footballer Jack McCaffery was among his notable classmates. We’re still waiting for the much-anticipated 100m race between the two athletes, but in the meantime we’ll settle for following English’s progress in the Men’s 800m in Tokyo. The Irish middle-distance runner qualified only three weeks ago in Spain, breaking the Irish record in a fantastic 1:44.71, clocking in well below the automatic qualifying time of 1:45.20. Recently he has faced tough competition on both International and Irish fronts, with 19-year-old Cian McPhillips of Longford AC forcing a photo-finish that 28-year-old English only just edged at the Athletics Ireland Elite Micro Indoor Meet in Dublin in February of this year. Medals in the European indoor and outdoor Championships are among some of the Donegal athlete’s biggest achievements to date, but English arrives at these games in brilliant form and will be hoping to improve on his composed performances in the Rio Olympics.

Sarah Healy

20-year-old Healy has recently begun to make strides in the Senior ranks, after a glittering junior career which involved European U-18 golds in 1500m and 300m in 2018, European U-20 silver in 2019, and various national U-20 and U-23 records. Healy will be competing in the Women’s 1500m alongside Mageean, after logging a personal best of 4:07.78 in Gothenburg at the start of June of this year, which she backed up with a national title later that month in Santry. After moving from her home club Blackrock AC to UCD AC, Healy has shown composure that belies her years on the track against far more seasoned senior athletes and hopefully this is the first of many Olympics for the UCD Law student.

Sarah Lavin

100m hurdles is the Event that awaits Limerick’s Sarah Lavin in Tokyo. Like Mageean, Lavin also studied Physiotherapy in UCD and is in flying form and injury free. The 27-year-old finished 4th in the 2019 World University Games and secured a silver medal in the 2013 Junior European Championships. Last month she became only the second Irish woman to finish the 100m hurdles in under 13 seconds (joining Derval O’Rourke) and comes into these games with the untapped potential to really make a name for herself in her event.


Women’s 1500m

Heats: Mon 2nd Aug (approx. 1:30-2:00am Irish time)

Semi-finals: Wed 4th Aug (approx. 11:00-11:20am Irish time)

Finals: Fri 6th Aug (approx. 1:50-2:00pm Irish time)


Men’s 800m

Heats: Sat 31st July (approx. 1:45-2:30am Irish time)

Semi-finals: Sun 1st Aug (approx. 12:35-1:00pm Irish time)

Finals: Wed 4th Aug (approx. 1:05-1:15pm Irish time)


Women’s 100m hurdles

Heats: Sat 31st July (approx. 2:45-3:20am Irish time)

Semi-finals: Sun 1st Aug (approx. 11:45-12:10pm Irish time)

Finals: Wed 4th Aug (approx. 3:50-4:00am Irish time)