Britton's coach cautious about World cross success
ATHLETICS:Not for the first time the medal-winning exploits of Fionnuala Britton has pointed us back in the direction of her coach Chris Jones, the man perhaps most responsible for taking her from the fringes of championship success and onto the victory rostrum. Jones has never been one to get overly excited about Britton’s potential, beyond the realisation of it, and while predicting even bigger and better things for her on the track, he’s issued a word of caution about the World Cross Country, and particularly the prospect of Irish team medals.
Britton’s run at the European Indoor championships over the weekend was always designed to be a final stepping stone towards the World Cross Country, set for Bydgoszcz in Poland, on March 24th: the bronze medal won over 3,000 metres will boost Britton’s confidence, yet Jones knows as well anyone the challenge that awaits her in Poland.
“Gothenburg was another step up, definitely, and another testament of how hard Fionnuala has been willing to work on her speed over the last year or two,” says Jones, whose “day job” is still high-performance director with Triathlon Ireland.
“What we’ve always known is Fionnuala has a very, very big engine. But there are no prizes for running the most miles in one week. Mo Farah doesn’t have the fastest 5,000m or 10,000m times, but has developed the sustained speed necessary to really compete in those events. That’s what Fionnuala is trying to achieve. I think she is growing in confidence, getting much more experience, become a more robust runner
“But we’re not getting overexcited about this year. I wouldn’t even say the World cross is the big target. This season is about making further progress, learning more about herself, then make 2014 a really big year.”
Jones has already revealed the more realistic target for Britton in Poland, making the top 10, retaining her position as the best in Europe, perhaps the best non-African. Not once has he talked about medals. What Jones does not reveal is Britton had been suffering from a stomach illness in the days before her race in Gothenburg: they kept this under wraps, consulting with the Irish management, and local event doctor, yet careful not to put pressure on Britton. If she hadn’t recovered by the Friday morning, 24 hours before her heat, Britton was going to return home.
Now, as all the focus shifts back to cross country, and Britton prepares to rejoin her Irish team-mates that also struck gold at the European Cross Country in Budapest in December, Jones also talks frankly about exactly where the Irish team ambitions should be: Linda Byrne, Ava Hutchinson and Lizzie Lee – the three other scorers from Budapest – have been selected, along with Mary Cullen, yet Jones is a little concerned about the lack of proper preparation. “I would still say that any day you get a runner in the top-50 at the World Cross Country is a good day. It’s already been a long season . . . We need to be more realistic about the task at hand, looking more towards top eight.”