Beijing athletics games are set to be biggest to date
DOPING scandals, newspaper exposés and negative publicity for the sport have not prevented the 15th IAAF World Championships in Beijing from being the biggest ever.
Entries indicate that 207 member federations will be sending representatives to Beijing for the championships that start just after midnight on Friday (Irish time) with the men’s marathon. That is an increase of four federations on the previous best set in Moscow two years ago. The attendance figures are also impressive, with the Bird’s Nest stadium already sold out for all the evening sessions across the nine days.
Individual entries have reached almost 2,000, another record, although less than that will compete due to the usual last minute withdrawals through injury etc. The numbers have been boosted by the IAAF’s innovative quota system of inviting athletes who had not already been entered by the deadline of midnight, August 10 on the basis of them being among the best ranked in their event.
This brought each event up to an optimum number of competitors as established by the IAAF, with four athletes being added to the Irish squad through the system. North Down’s Ben Reynolds (110m Hurdles) was one of these along with Kelly Proper (200m), Ciara Everard (800m) and Sara Treacy (3,000m steeplechase).
Significantly, there are a few small and important differences in the drug-testing procedures since Moscow two years ago. The IAAF will continue to build its biological passport database. This means the world governing body will have more profiles to guide target testing, which helps determine where and when testing occurs.
An innovation since Moscow will be the addition of the steroidal (urine) component of the biological passport. This acts in the same way as the previous blood passport, but uses parameters within the urine sample to look for changes in steroidal values.
Two of Ireland’s brightest young stars, Mark English and Thomas Barr, kick-off the action early on Saturday morning. English will be looking to progress beyond the opening round of the 800m (4.50am), something he did not manage in Moscow. Later, World University Games champion Barr should safely negotiate the preliminary round heats of the 400m hurdles (11.35am).
As well as the men’s marathon, there are also women’s shot putt and men’s 10,000m final on Saturday.
HISTORY could be in the making in the north-west, with Lifford Athletic Club in negotiations with Strabane Track Club about a possible amalgamation. A unified cross-border club would be the first of its kind.
Lifford Athletic Club has had a long and distinguished record of promoting and developing athletics in the area since its formation in 1968. For nearly 50 years, the club has had an enviable record of developing top class athletes, many of whom have gone on to compete on the international stage.
More recently, it has evolved into a club which is not only achieving outstanding results at juvenile and senior level, but also has one of the biggest recreational running groups in the country through the success of its Fit4Life programme.
Similarly, Strabane Track Club, formerly known simply as Strabane AC, is one of the oldest clubs in Ulster with a history stretching back to the 1940s. It was the club of choice for many Donegal athletes prior to Cranford AC being formed in the 1960s. More recently, the club has specialised in the javelin event and boasts current Irish champion Seán McBride among its number.
“Over the past number of months, we have been exploring opportunities with Strabane Track Club about joining together as one cross-border club,” said Lifford chairman Brendan O’Donnell.
“Not only does this have the opportunity to create a bit of sporting history in athletics on this part of the island, but it also has the potential to create one of the biggest and strongest clubs in the north-west.”
Over the coming weeks, an application will be made to both the Donegal and Ulster Athletic Councils for the recognition of an amalgamated cross-border club. If approved, this will be a major hurdle cleared towards a possible amalgamation.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue between the clubs over issues of mutual concern, while an official announcement of the marriage could be made before Christmas.
THE progressive Orangegrove Athletics Club have confirmed they are again hosting the Athletics NI Road Relay Championships on Saturday, October 3.
The hugely popular event also incorporates the NI Masters Relay Championships, as well as an underage race on the flat mile circuit around Victoria Park.
North Belfast Harriers took the lion’s share of the spoils at last year’s meeting, winning two of the four races as well as grabbing a podium place in a third. A record 106 teams took part in the four races in an event that was superbly organised by Orangegrove.
This year’s event will see all competitors in the Seniors’ and Masters’ races being chip-timed and there will be a cash reward of £200 for any team breaking the male or female course record.
The race day programme will follow a similar pattern as last year. Primary school races will be the only registrations allowed on race day and will cost £2 per entrant. Registration for these races open at 10am and organisers would appreciate it if entrants could register as early as possible.
All other competitors are required to complete an online entry form at www.orangegrove.co.uk.
DERRY CITY TRACK CLUB athlete Conor McIlveen impressed with a double gold medal performance at the 2015 CPISRA World Games in Nottingham.
The 25-year-old recorded new personal bests over both 200m and 400m to lift the T38 titles at both distances. It was the first appearance of the 25-year-old Derry man on the international stage at a Cerebral Palsy games and followed his victories in both events at the Irish championships last month.
McIlveen opened with a win in the 400m, recording 58.22 seconds, the first time he had been under 59 seconds for the distance. He followed that up with another new best of 26.98 seconds in the 200m to leave the opposition trailing in the distance.
“I had a great ten days in Nottingham at the Cerebral Palsy World Games,” said McIlveen.
“I met some amazing people, who I will never forget. I’m so proud to have competed for Ireland and run at the highest standard that I possibly could against some great runners and athletes.”
The All-State employee made an early return to the track on Thursday night when he competed at the Super Six Meeting in Belfast. With the British championships coming up in September, there is no time to be lost for the Derry’s latest golden boy.
IF YOU are interested in running the third Asics Belfast City Half Marathon along with over 4,000 people, you had better get your skates on as registration closes on Sunday, August 30.
The race takes place on Sunday, September 20 and is organised by the management team of the Official Belfast City Marathon. It promises to deliver a personal best for all runners with a new, faster course. The 13.1 mile route will cover south, west and east Belfast and pass such notable landmarks as Victoria Park, the Albert Clock and the murals on the Falls Road, as well as Belfast City Hall.
The race will begin in the Ormeau Park at 9am and finish on the driveway to the Tennis Centre. Radio station U105 will be present to fire up the runners on the starting line and celebrate their victory at the finish.
All participants will receive a finisher medal and technical t-shirt along with a bag full of treats. There will be family fun activities available at the finish line for spectators to enjoy as they await their family and friends.
Sign up for the Belfast City Half Marathon at www.belfastcityhalfmarathon.net or contact the office directly on 028 90 605933 before the closing date.