Making finals the first task for Irish team
Brian Gregan: Tops European 400-metre rankings after running 46.07 seconds
Athletics: Rarely has Ireland named a team for the European Indoor championships with two athletes currently top of the event rankings, another former medallist in hers, plus the reigning two-time European cross country champion.
These are – in the relevant order of Brian Gregan, Ciarán Ó Lionáird, Derval O’Rourke and Fionnuala Britton – part of the 11-strong Irish team on their way to Gothenburg this week, where the championships get underway on Friday. It certainly makes for a promising weekend, although on closer inspection, medals will actually be very hard to win. Indeed the first task will be making finals. Gregan has been sitting atop the European 400-metre rankings since running 46.07 seconds in Athlone, at the end of January, but the list of entries for Gothenburg, declared yesterday, is pretty daunting.
Gregan’s opponents include the reigning European outdoor champion Pavel Maslak from the Czech Republic, his best this year being 46.31, a trio of British runners fronted by Richard Strachan, with his 46.22, and the leading Russian Pavel Trenikhin, who has just run 46.09.
Some comfort for Gregan is that the Belgian twins Jonathan and Kevin Borlée have only entered the 4x400m relay, although the 23-year-old Dubliner will need to race very smart to make Sunday’s final.
Ó Lionáird has been displaying an excellent return to form since his harsh experience at the London Olympics, and his recent indoor mile of 3:52.10 translates to a 3:36.85 1,500m – also the fastest in Europe this season.
However, Ó Lionáird has opted for the 3,000m, probably rightly so, having also qualified in that event with his 7:53.69, in Boston. Yet that ranks him only 10th of the event entries in Gothenburg, with reigning European outdoor 1,500m and cross country champion Henrik Ingebrigtsen looking to secure a unique treble. Also down to compete is the former Ethiopian Hayle Ibrahimov, now running for Azerbaijan, and former Kenyan Polat Kemboi Arikan, now representing Turkey, and again Ó Lionáird will need to run smart to make his final, set for Saturday.
Ó Lionáird is joined in the 3,000m by John Travers and Stephen Scullion, with David McCarthy , who had also qualified, withdrawing due to illness – and that in fact completes the men’s interest, the other seven Irish entrants all being women.
O’Rourke’s knack for championship peaking has always been her strength, and she’ll certainly need to do that again if she’s to make the final of the 60 metres hurdles. Bronze medallist in Turin in 2009, and fourth in Paris two years ago, her season best of 8.08 only ranks her 15th best, with former outdoor rival Nevin Yanit of Turkey among those ahead of her, plus the top-ranked Russian Yulia Kondakova, with her 7.93.
So to Britton, who although adamant that Gothenburg is a stepping stone to next month’s World Cross Country in Poland, will certainly want to make the final of the women’s 3,000m – where she’s currently ranked eighth, with her 8:54.37, although only four seconds off the number one Russian Elena Korobkina.
Completing the team are Amy Foster (60m), Ciara Everard and Rose Anne Galligan (both 800m), Claire Tarplee (1,500m) and Tori Pena (pole vault), with Everard perhaps the only one of those with a shot of making the final.