O'Rourke finds fourth place the hardest hurdle


ATHLETICS:There comes a time when every athlete is teased by the same question: is this still possible? Dare they step back into the arena one more time, determination and self-doubt jostling for position? Derval O’Rourke faced this coming to Gothenburg, answered it in the only way she knows – that as long as she believes in herself, anything is still possible.

In the frantic finish that always comes with the 60 metres hurdles, it seemed impossible that O’Rourke hadn’t medalled, her bold and brilliant dash for the line stopping our hearts as quickly as it did the clock.

Then, after the several suspended minutes that followed, the possibilities ended, O’Rourke was edged out of the medal positions by the slightest of margins. Her answer after that, again defiantly so, was that she could have won, that this was a medal that got away.

“I ran it to win it,” she said, “not to come second, or third. Now, having said that, I would have loved to won a medal. I actually thought I had silver. I’d just love them to change the photo finish. I don’t like not winning medals.”

It was Nevin Yanit – O’Rourke’s old nemesis, and reigning two-time outdoor champion – who struck gold, her 7.89 seconds a Turkish record, and European leader; then came Alina Talay of Belarus and the Italian Veronica Borsi, both credited with 7.94, separated only by the photo finish – before O’Rourke, her 7.95 a season best in fourth, and ahead of the fancied Russian Yuliya Kondakova, fifth in 7.99, and Elaine Berings, the 2009 champion from Belgium, sixth.

“I knew Yanit was the one to beat, that’s what I tried to do, and just came up short. And it’s not being arrogant, but I don’t believe any of those three girls are better than me. I find that very frustrating. But without that I wouldn’t be the runner I am. Because I came here because I believed I had a chance of winning. And I was never going to hide from it . . .”

Consider this: it was O’Rourke’s best indoor time since 2006, when she ran 7.84 to win the World indoors; quicker than two years ago, when she also finished fourth at these championships, and also 2009, when she won bronze. Indeed that’s now three times she’s finished fourth (including the World Championships in Berlin in 2009) – she’s never finished worse than fourth in a championship final.

“And after possibly the most disruptive preparation I’ve ever had for a season,” she added. “Only for Seán and Terri Cahill, my coaches, I wouldn’t have come, because they convinced me. I had a sinus infection in October, lost 4kg, and missed three weeks training. Then I’d an injection in my Achilles’ tendon, missed another two weeks. But to be honest there were was nothing much wrong with that run. I couldn’t break 8.01 last year. So there is more in there, I always believe that. I still think I can break my outdoor record.”

There was nothing but determination in the way most of the Irish athletes performed over the course of the day, none more impressively than Ciarán Ó Lionáird and Brian Gregan, who earlier confirmed their medal intentions: both athletes come into this afternoon’s sessions in the best shape of their lives, with Ó Lionáird eyeing up a medal in the 3,000m final, and Gregan looking for a place in tomorrow’s 400m final.

There is also the real possibility that Ireland could have two representatives in the women’s 800m final as both Ciara Everard and Rose Anne Galligan won their respective heats, Everard clocking 2:04.33, which ranks her seventh best going into this afternoon’s semi-finals, with six to qualify. “It will be a step up, to make the final, but I’m going in there confident, knowing I can be good enough,” she said.

Galligan followed that by winning her heat in 2:03.62, which ranks her fifth fastest, the Kildare athlete, now based Cheltenham, looking a little surprised ever herself: “Yeah, delighted to have made the semi-final, and didn’t expect to win, so it’s a nice bonus,” she said.

Now all we need is the bonus of a medal, before the possibilities begin to disappear.

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