Ireland's Thomas Barr confident ahead of 400m hurdles final

 The 400m hurdles final is scheduled for 4pm today
Malcom McCausland

Thomas Barr heads in to today’s Olympic Games 400m hurdles final having turned in the best performance to date by an Irish athlete at the Rio Olympics when he qualified for the final in the early hours of yesterday morning. 

The Ferrybank star was in fourth place entering the home straight, but produced a strong finish to win his semi and go into the final as the third fastest qualifier.

Barr’s time of 48.39 seconds was a new national record, bettering his own previous mark of 48.65. He is also the first Irish athlete to qualify for a sprint final since Bob Tisdall took the gold medal at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.

“I’m shaking like a leaf. I’m delighted,” said Barr (right) afterwards. 

“I went in really relaxed and I was able to track Karsten Warholm on my outside. I know I’ve a really good finish. I’m not being cocky. I was smiling coming over that last hurdle. Anything is possible now.”

Barr has been drawn in the favourable lane four for the final that takes place this afternoon. Fastest qualifier was Kerron Clement, from the United States, who was silver medalist in the event as long ago as 2008.

Ciara Everard was less impressive in yesterday’s heats of the women’s 800m. Drawn in the first race, the Kilkenny athlete was in touch until the bell but looked heavy-legged from there on as she faded back to eighth and a distant last in 2:07.91. Scotland’s Lynsey Sharp qualified easily in first place.

It had been Everard’s first race since the middle of May when she was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the foot. That had put her out of action for 10 weeks and she was not back to full fitness.

“I made the classic mistake of pushing too hard in Olympic year and got injured,” said the former UCD athlete. 

“I was as positive as possible and got the most out of myself. I know I’m better than that. I love competing. It’s been a tough summer watching the Europeans from the sidelines. I was so up for it today even off limited preparation.”

Three finals were decided yesterday. In the women’s 1500m, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon was much too strong for world record holder Genzebe Dibaba on the last lap, going on to win in 4:08.92 after a slow opening 800 metres.

Canada’s Derek Drouin took the high jump title while American Evan Jager split two Kenyans in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase won by Consesius Kipruto with his compatriot Ezekiel Kemboi in third.

Yesterday also saw Mo Farah take another step toward his second gold medal of the Games as he safely negotiated the semi-finals of the 5000m.

Meanwhile, former world champion Eamonn Coghlan has reacted angrily to Athletics Ireland’s claim of this being their best Games since 1996 with four athletes progressing beyond the first round – albeit Sara Treacy only doing so on appeal after falling in her heat.

“Sorry @irishathletics, but if you regard #Rio2016 a success, you aspire to mediocrity. @sportireland. Aim higher,” tweeted the Fine Gael senator.

The tweet drew abuse from some with one person quick to point out that Coghlan, fourth on two occasions, had never won an Olympic medal himself, while many either liked or retweeted it.

The men’s triathlon takes place today at Rio’s Fort Copacabana course with 55 athletes scheduled to take part. Ireland will be represented by Cork man Bryan Keane in a race which sees the Brownlee brothers, defending Olympic champion Alistair and London Games bronze medallist Jonny, taking on favourite Javier Gómes Noya from Spain


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