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Going for gold in green

LEAVING aside boxer Katie Taylor, who many think only has to show up to win gold, the Irish team could pull off a surprise or two at the London Games.

Nothing went right for triathlete Aileen Morrison at last weekend's Hamburg sprint triathlon, but you know what they say about a bad dress rehearsal.

Morrison, aged 30, is an experienced campaigner and knows that she needs a strong swim to get in with the main bunch in the cycle, her weakest discipline. On the run, she can beat anyone on her day. In Kitzbuhl last month, Morrison finished 14th in a strong field behind Swiss triathlete Nicola Spirig, one of the favourites to win in London.

Ireland's athletics team of 23 contains five race walkers and four marathon runners.

Best hope of a medal is Robert Heffernan, who finished fourth in the 50km walk at the European Championships two years ago after an eighth place at the Beijing Olympics in the shorter 20km. If he keeps his form, anything can happen. Olive Loughnane's seventh in the 20km at the Beijing Games followed by a silver at the World Championships a year later underlined her appetite for the big occasion, but she has struggled with injury and illness.


In the marathon, a personal best will be the target for our four runners, with Linda Byrne certainly capable of coming close to the two hour 30 minute barrier.

For sprinter Paul Hession, this is likely to be a final Games. He has shown improved form over the past few weeks after a poor showing at the European Championships in Helsinki.

The other veteran of the team is Derval O'Rourke, who competes at her third Olympic Games. Athough she went out in the opening round of the 100m hurdles in Beijing, she recovered her form to run an Irish record of 12.65 for second at the 2010 European Championships.

One of the stars of the Irish team in Beijing was canoeist Eoin Rheinisch who finished fourth in the men's K1 slalom and now heads for his third Olympics.

Canoeing has another medal contender in Andre Jezierski, who competes in the C1 (canoe kneeling) 200m sprint.

Jezierski, now 31, won a European U23 title in a C2 boat for Poland in 2000, and world titles in a C4 boat in 2002 and 2005.

Most recently, he finished fifth at the European Championships.

Then there is showjumping, a sport where the Irish are undoubtedly world class, but have never managed to win an Olympic medal.

Cian O'Connor, so sensationally stripped of the gold in 2004, would dearly love to change that. A reserve for the Beijing team, he acquired and syndicated Blue Loyd with the goal of making it to London and after seven months of training and competition, the partnership is gelling at just the right moment.

Sailing is another sport that could produce a medal.

Best hope is the Star combination of Peter O'Leary and David Burrows, with Burrows competing at his fourth Olympics and the combination ranked sixth in the world.

Consistency is the key as they well know, especially with strong crews from Brazil and the UK in the mix.

An outside hope is Annalise Murphy, an Evening Herald Sports Star of the Week award winner during her days at The High School in Rathgar, now ranked 14th in the world, who competes in the Laser Radial and is getting better all the time.