Gary O'Hanlon unhappy after being denied Irish title by Freddy Sittuk

Sittuk won Irish men’s title despite hailing from, and training in, his native Kenya

Freddy Sittuk of Raheny Shamrocks after crossing the line to take the Irish title. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Freddy Sittuk of Raheny Shamrocks after crossing the line to take the Irish title. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

 

Marathon running has always been a combination of agony and ecstasy, only not the way Gary O’Hanlon is feeling it right now.

Because moments after crossing the finish line of the Dublin marathon, believing he was the top Irish finisher on the day, O’Hanlon was informed that actually he wasn’t – denied that honour by Kenyan runner Freddy Sittuk, who was born and still does most of his training in Iten, high in the Great Rift Valley.

Sittuk however does run for Dublin club Raheny Shamrock, and having been resident in Ireland for six continuous months, is now eligible for the national marathon title which comes with being the top Irish finisher in Dublin.

Gary O’Hanlon of Clonliffe Harriers A.C thought he had won the Irish title. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Gary O’Hanlon of Clonliffe Harriers A.C thought he had won the Irish title. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Still O’Hanlon had mixed feelings about that: his 2:18:52 was a personal best, leaving him 11th overall, while Sittuck clocked 2:16.05 in fourth place, also a personal best on a day perfect for fast marathon times.

The outright men’s winners was Bernard Rotich from Kenya, who ran 2:15:52 to collect the top prize of €12,000 – while the women’s title went to Nataliya Lehonkova from Ukraine, who also won here two years ago.

Kenya’s Bernard Rotich crosses the line to win the SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon in a time of 2:15:53. Photo: Niall Carson /PA Wire
Kenya’s Bernard Rotich crosses the line to win the SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon in a time of 2:15:53. Photo: Niall Carson /PA Wire

“I didn’t know he (Sittuk) was part of the national field, was only told after I crossed the line,” said O’Hanlon, who at 43 only resumed his competitive career five years ago, having previously been a top-ranked junior.

“Look, I was sure I’d won the national title, and in my head that’s the way I ran my race too. I don’t mean to knock it, but this opens the gates, and we could be flooded now with athletes coming here to win national titles.

“You hear about these Kenyans running for Turkey, or where, and Fionnuala McCormack giving out about missing out on medals. It’s different if they’re living here on a permanent basis.

“I’ve always wanted to win a national title, and I ran a best by a minute here, so in my mind I am national marathon champion. I was thinking a lot about that coming in the closing mind, my new born son (Ben), and how I was going to celebrate it. I definitely feel like I’ve earned it.”

Defending Irish marathon champion Sergiu Ciobanu, the Moldovan native now cleared to represent Ireland, was third best Irish finisher, with Stephen Scullion fourth best.

“I had it geared up in my mind, to come through in the second half, and got past Sergiu, and then Stephen,” added O’Hanlon, who works as a personal trainer in his native Dundalk. “I felt in control the whole way, ran on my own the whole way. I don’t want to sound bitter about it, but when I heard about this Kenyans denying other people medals, I never really thought it would affect me.”

Athletics Ireland did confirm that the rule on eligibility for national titles was changed in 2016, allowing any foreign athlete registered with an Irish club and living here for six continuous months to compete for national titles.

The question was put to Sittuk, who did run a brave race, keeping himself at the front of the race all the way: the national title earned him a bonus of €3,500, and having first visited Ireland in 2012, felt he was entitled to be part of the race for the national title.

“I think yes, it’s fair because I have run for Raheny since 2012 and I have competed for them in cross-country and also in the half-marathon,” said Sittuk, not long after returning from the medical tent after receiving attention, such was the extent of his effort.

Laura Graham of Mourne Runners crosses the line to be the first Irish finisher in the women’s category. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Laura Graham of Mourne Runners crosses the line to be the first Irish finisher in the women’s category. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Defending her Irish women’s national title was Laura Graham, the 31-year old mother of four from Down, who ran another sweetly paced race to clock 2:39:06. Patrick Monahan also won a fourth successive wheelchair race in 1:49:55.

SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon Results 2017

Men

1. Bernard Rotich: 2:15.52 - Kenya

2 Yurii Ruskyuk: 2:15.55 - Ukraine

3 Asefa Legese Bekele: 2:15.58 - Ethiopia

Women

1. Nataliya Lehonkova: 2:28.57 - Ukraine

2. Ashu Kasim: 2:34.35 - Ethiopia

3. Viktoriya Khapilina: 2:35.54 - Ukraine

National Championships Results

Men

1. Freddy Sittuk: 2:16.05 - Raheny Shamrocks A.C.

2. Gary O’Hanlon: 2:18.52 - Clonliffe Harriers A.C.

3. Sergiu Ciobanu: 2:19.05 - Clonliffe Harriers A.C.

Women

1. Laura Graham: 02:39.06 - Mourne Runners

2. Caitriona Jennings: 02:42.36 - Letterkenny A.C.

3. Pauline Curley: 02:50.53 - Tullamore Harriers A.C

Wheelchair Championship Results

1. Patrick Monahan: 1:49.55

2. Richie Powell: 2:15.28

3. Susanne McGrath: 3:35.40

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