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Thomas Barr falls agonisingly short of podium finish in Rio

Thomas Barr can’t hide his anguish after finishing fourth in the 400m hurdles at the Olympics in Rio yesterday, while Yamani Copello hits the ground after holding on for the bronze medal
Picture by PA
Malcom McCausland

Ireland’s Thomas Barr ran the best race of his life but ended up in the worst possible position in yesterday’s final of the 400m hurdles in Rio. 

Drawn in the favourable lane four, Barr put in a strong finish to take fourth in a new Irish record of 47.97 seconds.

The Waterford man’s cause was aided greatly even before he started when London Olympics bronze medallist Javier Coulson of Puerto Rico was disqualified for a false start.

Barr made a slow start and looked well out of it in seventh as he entered the final 100m, but the Ferrybank athlete turned on the gas and despite stuttering slightly over the final hurdle continued a forward momentum that took him to within five-hundredths of the bronze medal.

American Kerron Clement was first across the line in 47.73 ahead of Kenya’s Boniface Tumuti with Cuban-born Yasmani Copello taking the bronze medal for Turkey.

It is now 16 years since Ireland took an athletics medal of any colour. Sonia O’Sullivan’s 5000m silver in Sydney was the last time an Irish athlete mounted the podium in the Olympic Stadium, although Rob Heffernan may yet get a bronze medal from the 50Km Walk in London.

Elaine Thompson confirmed she is the fastest women on the planet by completing a famous 100m and 200m sprint double, the first time that has been achieved since Florence Griffith Joyner did at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

The Jamaican held off the challenge from favourite Dafne Schippers – the Dutch woman challenged but never delivered – to take the gold with a world-leading in 21.78 seconds mark.

Schippers was a 10th of a second back in the silver medal position with the American Tori Bowie was third in 22.15. 

Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith ran well but tied up towards the end to finish up fifth in 22.31.

Brianna Rollins led an American clean sweep of the medals in the women’s 100m hurdles, with Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin filling the other podium places. It was the first sweep by any country in the history of the 100m hurdles, the first by American women in any event and only the seventh ever in athletics.

Rollins exploded from the blocks and was never seriously challenged in posting a time of 12.48 seconds, with Ali taking the silver in 12.59. Castlin came from behind and leaned in at the finish to pip Britain’s Cindy Ofili for third in 12.61. 

Usain Bolt finished clocked his fastest time of the year, 19.78 seconds, to progress to the 200m final, which was held overnight. 

The defending champion spent the last 30 metres talking to Canada’s Andre De Grasse who was second, just 0.02 sec behind.

“He was supposed to slow down. I said, ‘What are you doing, it’s a semi-final?’ That was really unnecessary,” said Bolt after the race. 

Ireland’s Bryan Keane finished 40th in yesterday’s triathlon as Britain’s Alistair and Jonny Brownlee claimed the gold and silver.

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