Ó Lionáird takes bronze in 3,000m
Amy Foster (right) qualified for Sunday's 60m semi-finals with a fifth place finish in her heat in Gothenburg. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ciaran O'Lionaird (right) with his bronze medal for finishing third in the Men's 3000m final, alongside first placed Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbijan and silver medalist Juan Carlos Higuero from Spain. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Fionnuala Britton of Ireland, Polina Jelizarova of Latvia and Charlotta Fougberg of Sweden compete in the Women's 3000m heats on day two of the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Brian Gregan after tripping in the semi-finals of the Men's 400m at the European Indoors in Gothenburg. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Athletics:If the way Ciarán Ó Lionáird won Ireland’s first medal at these European Indoor Championships wasn’t personally compensating enough, the timing of it certainly was – coming as did just half an hour after Brian Gregan’s medal hopes were sent crashing to the track.
Ó Lionáird needed to execute perfect tactics in his 3,000 metres final, and did exactly he that, putting himself on the shoulder of gold medal favourite Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan in the final lap showdown. As hard as he kicked, Ó Lionáird just couldn’t get past him – then in the last sprint for the finish he was passed by the experienced Spaniard Juan Carlos Higuero.
Yet his bronze medal – in a personal best of 7:50.40 – was more than just reward for an athlete who just over six months ago was left contemplating his future in the sport after a nightmare experience at the London Olympics.
“I’d rather have run for gold, and got bronze, like I did, than run for silver and got silver,” said Ó Lionáird, an extra layer of maturity now obviously sitting on the shoulders of the 24 year-old from Cork. “So, I’m not elated. But it is satisfying, and something to move forward with, for sure. I suppose I’m still a little new to these indoor championships, with a lot less experience than some of those guys. I kind of wanted to see it played out in front of me, and not go crazy, and I didn’t do anything crazy.
“I felt I’d one big move to make, I made that, and moved up onto Ibrahimov I thought I could get past him, but not quite. He actually surprised me with his turn of speed. Then Higuero ran a very, very astute race, and has got the experience for that.”
Ibrahimov – who won silver two years ago – took the win in 7:49.74, but the race was constantly evolving, and Ó Lionáird always kept his cool: “Athletes would be lying if they said there were never doubts in your head. You just try to talk yourself out of those negative thoughts. It never feels smooth. It’s never easy. I just put the negative thoughts out of my head. I knew if I could be there with three laps to go it was coming into my territory, and I could start to do some work, extract something from the race.
“Of course I would have liked to win gold, but this is a culmination season, coming back from last season’s disappointment. This has given more some silverware, or rather some bronze-ware, but kept me hungry, and certainly come out and beat those guys later in the year. I’m satisfied, but I won’t be going to bed tonight satisfied. I’m still motivated.”