Mark Carroll endured another disappointing blow when he was eliminated in the heats of the 5,000 metres at the World Championships today. Carroll finished tenth in his heat and then had an agonising wait for the other semi-final, only to find that he would miss out by just one place. Carroll suffered exactly the same experience in the Sydney Olympics when he was pipped for the last qualifying place by a Japanese runner but vowed that he was going to make up for it here. He was drawn in the most difficult of the two heats but admitted afterwards “I felt awful and I was out on my feet during the last few laps. “My breathing was laboured and at 4,000m I knew it was going to be a struggle. “I cannot offer any excuses, perhaps it was the early morning start (he was up at 5.0am to prepare for the 9.30 start) and I know Edmonton is 2,000 feet above sea level but championship running is different. You can get into a rhythm in a Grand Prix race but here it’s all about getting into the right positions at the end.” When he stepped on the track yesterday at 9.35 a.m. Canadian time, Carroll knew he had a severe task ahead of him. Drawn with him in the first of two heats were a duo of the Kenyans (including the feared Richard Limo), a duo of Ethiopians (including Olympic champion Million Wolde), and the race favourite Ali Saidi-Sief of Algeria. Only five men were guaranteed qualification, with five of the fastest losers from the two races. His strategy soon became obvious. Carroll alternated the lead with Norway’s Marius Bakken to ensure a fast pace, and hopefully burn the speed out of some of Africans. They reeled off laps of 63, 64, 64, 65 and 66 but could never get more than about 20 metres on the pack. By 3,000 metres (8:10.51) it was obvious the game was up especially as Carroll started to struggle to keep with the Norwegian. When the bunch caught Carroll he slipped to 7th, then 10th and eventually 12th, looking a lonely and rather uncomfortable figure. With two laps to go he was still 12th but he got back to 11th and then past the Chilean, Mauricio Diaz, but he could not find that extra spring which would have taken him up to El Elwardi. When the final list of qualifiers appeared, Carroll’s name stood out solemnly in 16th place; 13:37.27. The man who finished just a stride ahead of him in his race, Ahmed Ibrahim Hashim of Algeria, was in just ahead of him; 13:36.27. The difference was just over a second, but for Carroll, that was a world of a difference.
Carroll came here as Ireland’s one slim hope of a medal with a definite chance of at least making the final. To have failed to do so again, having also been eliminated in ’97, will give him much food for thought, especially after all the preparations. Carroll gave it his all and battled to the very last, finishing on his knees, bending over in pain after crossing the line. “I knew when I crossed the line that there was no way the sixth man in the next race was going to go much slower than that. Maybe it’s time to start altitude training now, because that was hard to take.” The gamble of the early pacing paid off for the Norwegian runner Bakken, who finished seventh and thus qualified. Read Bakken’s Report of the Race on his Website. ( Results