Inside track

Multi-talented Ben Fisher accepted to Athletes' Academy

Mary Peters with new member of the Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy Ben Fisher  
Malcolm McCausland

THE Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy has a new member after the induction of double Commonwealth Youth Games bronze medalist Ben Fisher.

The 17-year-old hurdler, sprinter and long jumper was recently included in the programme, run in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust that annually supports five young athletes who compete at international level. The obviously multi-talented Fisher holds the Northern Ireland record for the U18 long jump and recently won the Irish U20 60-metre sprint as well as picking up medals in the 60m hurdles and long jump.

As a result of securing a place in the athletes’ academy, Ben will receive a £1,000 bursary to help with purchasing equipment and travelling to competitions: “I was really excited to be selected to the Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy this year - the support from Dale Farm will help me travel to training camps and competitions abroad,” said a delighted Fisher.

“Attending these events and competing with the world’s best talent will make me stronger in my field. I’m really appreciative to Dale Farm for helping me on my journey.”

The Methody student recently attended the Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy Masterclass, another one of the benefits provided to those selected for the academy. At the masterclass, athletes have the chance to speak one-on-one with experts in the sports field about nutrition, sports psychology and media training to help them progress in their career.

“I was most looking forward to speaking to Dr Mark Elliott, the sports psychologist, as dealing with the psychology of my sport is always tough for me. Mark gave me some really useful tips for mentally training for competitions," Fisher added.

“I also enjoyed speaking to the other mentors and getting to meet Ulster rugby’s Dan Tuohy. I have taken a lot from today that will help me with my upcoming training,” said the City of Lisburn star, who is targeting this summer’s European Junior Championships in Poland.

 

GOING from strength-to-strength is an understatement in relation to the 26th Armagh International Road Race next Thursday night. A midweek race with a modest budget in a small city in a remote corner of Europe - yet one of the best in the world.

Last year, the men’s 5k produced the staggering total of no less than 56 sub-15 minute times, led home by a pair of runners dipping under 14 minutes. A quick glance through this year’s race statistics reveals no less than 72 athletes who have broken 15 minutes, including 12 with sub-14 minutes to their credit.

Andrew Butchart heads the men’s startlist. It will be a quick encore for the Scot, who finished a splendid sixth at the Antrim International just a few weeks ago and, with a personal best of 13:29.49, is the fastest in the field.

Butchart faces a double Welsh challenge from Swansea Harrier Dewi Griffiths, with a 13:53.85 best, and Ieuan Thomas, who won the British Cross Challenge in his native Cardiff just three weeks ago and has a 13:53.85 timing to his credit.

Others in the frame for the top prize include Belgian Yannick Michiels (13.47.60), Poles Krystian Zalewski (13:45.94), a world steeplechase finalist last summer; Krzysztof Zebrowski (13:51.20) and Bartosz Nowicki (14:04.21), who was European indoor bronze medalist over 1,500m in 2011.

Ireland is represented by Thomas Fitzpatrick, Edinburgh Cross Country junior runner-up Kevin Mulcaire and Mark Kenneally, while the Northern Ireland men’s team is Chris Madden, Gareth Hill and Scott Rankin.

The quality in this year’s Intersport Women’s International 3k possibly surpasses the men’s race, with no less than 34 athletes who have run under 10 minutes, including four who have bettered nine minutes.

While Mary Cullen’s 9:07 record may not be in danger, an exciting tussle is expected upfront. Scotland’s Laura Whittle, a previous winner in Armagh, is back and favourite for the title. Whittle narrowly failed to make Britain’s team for the World Championships last summer and has a track best of 8:50.37.

She will have to contend with a strong challenge from fellow Scots Eilish McColgan (8:47.79) and Beth Potter (8:58.01), as well as a trio of top English athletes - Charlene Thomas (9:01.43i), Katrina Wootton (8:50.69) and Faye Fullerton (9:07.52). Poland’s Urszula Necka (9:12.66) looks like the best of the continental   competitors. Kerry O’Flaherty will lead the NI women’s team, with Emma Mitchell, Fionnuala Ross, and Anne-Marie McGlynn also included in the selection.

The men’s Open 3k closes the programme and, with over 200 entries, looks like living up to its reputation of a cavalry charge without equal on the island or beyond. Paddy Robb won last year and the St Malachy’s athlete looks like the one to beat again after his recent win over 1,500m in the recent national U23 championships.

Full details of the meeting can be found on www.armagh5K.com.

 

RACE director Joe Quinn is hoping that NI steeplechaser record holder Kerry O' Flaherty is just one of a number of top local athletes to sign up for the Jimmy's Ten Road Race on March 13.

O’Flaherty’s participation is based on her being able to fit the race into her preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Also expected to be in the women’s line-up are 2015 runner-up Rebecca Henderson, winner of the Rollercoaster 5k last weekend, and Louise Smith, who took the third spot on the podium 12 months ago.

Further good news for the organisers is that last year’s men’s winner Gideon Kimosop is back in the country and ready to defend his title. Joe McAlister and Benny Teer, third and fourth last year, are expected to return. Teer will carry the hopes of host club East Down.

Entries for the race are now open on www.athleticsni.org. The club has extended the early bird offer closing date until Friday, February 13.

 

 

THE Athletics world was saddened to hear of the death of John Disley earlier this week. The co-founder of the London Marathon died at the age of 87 following a short illness.

Disley, along with Chris Brasher, founded the London Marathon in 1981 and remained involved in what became one of the world's top marathons right up until his death. He presented Britain's world record holder Paula Radcliffe with a lifetime achievement award, which was named in his honour, at last year's race.

More than 7,000 runners stood on the start-line at the first race and, 35 years later, it now has a ceiling of 36,000 participants, although it attracts thousands more entries each year.

The Welshman was a distinguished athlete in his own right, winning the bronze medal in the 3,000 metres steeplechase at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and setting a world record for the event in 1955. He also posted five British records in the steeplechase, as well as four over two miles.

 

THE WEEKEND AHEAD
Friday, February 13
9:45am:
 Irish Universities’ Indoor Championships, Athlone

Saturday, February 14
9:30am:
 Parkrun, various venues; 12pm: Sperrin Harriers Winter League 10 Miles, Parkanaur Forest, Dungannon; O’Cahan's Trail Run, Roe Valley Country Park, Limavady.

Sunday, February 15
10am:
 Dune Cross Border Half Marathon, The Quays Shopping Centre, Newry; 11am: Valentine's Snog and Jog 5K, Ballyshannon; 12pm: GloHealth Inter County Cross Country Championships, Palace Grounds, Tuam.

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