Friday 28 October 2016

Athletics: Thomas Barr looking to finish season with a diamond run

Thomas Barr during his excellent run in Zurich
Thomas Barr during his excellent run in Zurich

After finishing third at the Diamond League meet in Zurich, 400m hurdler Thomas Barr rounds off his season at Friday's final Diamond League meet of the season in Brussels.

In Zurich, Barr's time of 49.79 secs put him less than a second behind local favourite Karien Hussein, who won the race in 49.16 secs. Barr went out hard but admits that the wheels fell off after 200m. He aims to end his season with all guns blazing in Brussels.

For Barr, it's been a break-through season. He improved his own Irish record and made the Olympic qualifying time with a world-class 48.65 secs last June in Rome.

He then went on to become World University Games champion in Korea with his trademark 100m kick - a big morale booster. He was back in form for another long flight to Beijing for the World Championships. There he was unlucky to to be drawn in lane 9 for both heats and semi-finals and narrowly missed out on a place in the final.

Barr will also face two major championships within a short time frame next summer and now knows how to prepare.

Like Barr, Mark English of UCD has already qualified for next year's Olympics where he will run the 800m. Last weekend, he finished second in the 600m at the Flame Games in Amsterdam, getting a feel for the track where the European Championships will take place next June. His time of 1 min 15.71 secs broke his own Irish record, set earlier this season. English was pleased to make his first world 800m semi-final, and his seaon's best of 1:45.49 wasn't too far off his personal best of 1:44.84 set in 2013.

A key member of Ireland's 4x400m squad is Clonliffe's Brian Gregan who was also running in Amsterdam last Saturday. The appalling weather meant times were slow though Gregan felt he ran a good race.

So who will join him on the relay squad? Apart from Thomas Barr and Mark English, there's an extravagance of young talent coming through - Craig Lynch, Dara Kerwick, Paul Murphy and Harry Purcell, who has left DCU for Villanova. There's also Brian Murphy - the elder statesman of the squad could have another games in him.

After clocking 3:01.26 in Beijing, the Irish squad is now chasing the second fast time they need for qualification. Only eight places are on offer for Rio.

With both European and Olympics Championships next summer, picking the right races will be vital. The World Indoors is scheduled for 17-20 March in Oregon - too late for anyone seriously considering their chances outdoors. There's also speculation that the National Track and Field Championships will be brought forward to June 25/26 - three weeks before the Europeans.

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