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'It was like the parting of the waves' - Mageean

Ciara Mageean shows her joy after crossing the finishing line to win the women's 1500m title at the European Championships in Rome
Mageean says her mother "told me I smiled" the moment the gap opening up on the home straight in Rome [Getty Images]

Ciara Mageean says her mantra going into Sunday night's 1500m final at the European Championships was "not to panic" and it served her brilliantly as she clinched the first major title of her career.

The Irish athlete was boxed in on the kerb for much of the race and, again with less than 100 metres left, but found a gap to storm to the title after squeezing between Great Britain duo Georgia Bell and Jemma Reekie.

"I wrote on my notes: 'Don't panic. If you're boxed in at 800m or with 200m to go, it will open up'," said the 32-year-old county Down woman.

"And with 100 metres to go whenever the opportunity arose, I was like 'I have to take it'. It was like the parting of the waves."

Mageean said that her mother spotted her smiling the moment the gap opened up on the Stadio Olimpico track.

"I didn’t realise myself but my mummy told me that I smiled whenever that gap came because I felt I had plenty of running in my legs and I just needed the space to be able to show it," she added.

After winning bronze and silver medals at previous European Championships, in addition to a Commonwealth Games silver and European Indoor medals, Mageean spoke of her joy at "completing the set with gold".

"It’s been a long time coming," she said. "I’ve been wanting that for a good few years now.

"It means the absolute world and for me it’s means so much to bring that medal back home to Ireland, back home to Portaferry, to all of the people who have helped me to get where I am."

"It’s as much their medal as it is mine," added the hugely popular athlete, who triumph has been greeted with joy throughout Ireland.

Mageean said her late grandparents and coach Jerry Kiernan, who died suddenly in January 2021, were uppermost in her thoughts after she crossed the finishing line.

"To my grandparents who haven’t got to see this moment and to people like Jerry who no doubt had the best seat in the house," she reflected.

"To be able to do it in his beloved Italy. He was a huge fan of Italy and travelled here all the time."

Ciara Mageean celebrates with Irish athletics fans after her Rome triumph
Mageean's victory has been greeted with joy all over the Emerald Isle [Getty Images]

But while Mageean remained overjoyed as she awaited her medal ceremony at the start of Monday's evening session, she had already resumed training for her Olympic Games challenge in Paris despite her late night in Rome.

"I had to get back out training this morning," she said. "Everybody thinks that you get to celebrate these moments but my season is only starting.

"I didn’t get much sleep last night purely because I didn’t get out of the stadium until 2am because the glamour side of this sport is that you have to do your anti-doping and complete all of your media requests as well as a cool down and physio.

"On Wednesday I’ll be doing a training session back in Manchester. There’s very little time to celebrate this victory."

Mageean believes that training will make her an even better athlete on the Olympics starting line in seven weeks.

"My big focus from this point on is the Olympic Games," she said.

"I’m not the finished item yet and I’ve got a lot of hard work to do and I’m excited to see what I can do whenever I gain that extra fitness."