National Championships see athletes step up push for places at Tokyo Olympics
NOTHING so focuses the mind of an athlete than the prospect of missing out on a trip to a major games. The impending deadline for Olympic qualification certainly galvanised performances at the 149th National Senior Championships to an extent not seen for some years. Several Tokyo-bound athletes also treated fans to some brilliant performances in difficult conditions while the next generation bared their teeth in senior competition.
Two certainties for the Games impressed. Waterford man Thomas Barr claimed his ninth national title in taking the men’s 400m in a more than respectable 50.66 seconds timing while teak-tough Michelle Finn took over eight seconds off her own championship record, stopping the clock at 9:36.94. Behind the Cork woman, Omagh Harrier Eilish Flanagan battled to the silver medal in 9:46.52, probably not good enough for Olympic qualification but setting her up nicely for next year’s Commonwealth Games.
While the established stars continued their reign, a new crop of talented youngsters were not afraid put their heads over the parapet. The tall 19-year-old Rhasidat Adeleke, home from the University of Texas, towered over her rivals on the start line of the 100m and dominated them when the gun fired, rushing to an 11.29 seconds timing, only denied a personal best by a following wind over the limit.
Rhasidat returned to the track yesterday for the 200m and pushed Olympic hopeful Phil Healy to one-hundredth of a second. Healy’s 22.83 timing would have been a national record but for the wind gauge reading just over the limit. Bitter-sweet for Rhasidat, the current holder with a 22.96 timing.
Another offspring of immigrants to this country, Israel Olatunde collected his first senior title in the men’s 100m in 10.49 (+1.7) seconds. That was not only a personal but a new national junior (U20) and U23 record. It augurs well for the Tallaght AC athlete at the European U23 and U20 championships next month.
Another emerging star to claim a first Senior national title was 20-year-old Sarah Healy who outclassed a strong 1500m field after a tactical race which saw the other Flanagan twin, Roisin, take the bronze medal ahead of Michelle Finn who was having her second race of the day. Healy is still borderline for Olympic selection and the 100 points for winning could possibly still see her clinch a place in Tokyo.
Yesterday’s men’s 200m may have created a problem for both Athletics Ireland and the Olympic Council following Leon Reid’s victory in a legal 20.79 seconds. The Bath-based sprinter is currently listed in the World Athletics places for Tokyo.
Elsewhere, Mark English failed to clinch the 1:45.20 Olympic qualifying time for 800m. Competing in Leverkusen, he was timed at 1:45.51. English will run again in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, just minutes before the deadline. And there will be no Mo Farah in Tokyo this year, at least in a competitive sense, as the four-time Olympic champion missed the 10,000m selection time by 19 seconds at a cold and windy British Championships in Manchester. The 38-year-old needed to go under 27 minutes 28 seconds to make the British team for Tokyo but finished in 27:47.04.