Final showdown proves Britton now firmly on track for greater things
Ireland's Fionnuala Britton dips on the line to win the bronze medal in the 3,000 metres yesterday. photograph: pa wire
Despite all her success over cross country, or perhaps because of it, some of us still wondered if Fionnuala Britton had what it takes to win medals on the track, that when it came to the final showdown, would she ever be there.
Truth is there was a time when she would have struggled to kick her way out of a paper bag, as we say in running parlance, but if what makes a great athlete is the elimination of all weaknesses then Britton is fast becoming one of the best distance runners Ireland has ever produced, no matter what the surface.
The European Indoor bronze medal she won here yesterday over 3,000 metres – a sweet accessory to her recent back-to-back gold medals in the European Cross Country – perfectly illuminates that case: Britton didn’t win it by chance and certainly not without some seriously impressive track speed that left several of the so-called big kickers in her wake. It was the first major medal she’s ever won on the track, and judging by her reaction afterwards, won’t be her last.
“I’m not stupid, I know the track is where it’s really at,” Britton told us, politely, firmly, when pressed on the matter. “And all through the cross country season I said it, that this is basically a step towards the main event of our sport, which is outdoor track, and the Olympics, where everybody in the sport wants to be, basically.”
Indeed just seven months ago, at the London Olympics, running only her third ever 10,000m on the track, Britton found herself lapped by some of the leading Africans, and so the doubters were ushered back in: “Well no, I didn’t feel that. I know other people did, and let them think what they want. I really love running, and sometimes what people will say about you can get you down. But it doesn’t get you down for long, because you just want to get out and train harder, prove some people wrong, but at the end of the day it’s more about enjoying it, doing it for what it is.”
That’s the sort of attitude Britton has fostered since her earliest days of running, around Kilcoole, but now aged 28, and with a steel edge about her deftly reinforced by her coach Chris Jones, the confidence and courage is suddenly soaring. It’s what ultimately got her across the line in third, just .05 of a second ahead of the Russian Yelena Korobkina, who although four seconds quicker on paper, didn’t quite have the determination to rival Britton.