Britton's London ambitions take new course


ATHLETICS:FIONNUALA BRITTON, fresh from her truly exceptional performance in winning the European Cross Country title in Slovenia on Sunday, was yesterday presented with a new challenge, as outlined by her Welsh-born coach, Chris Jones, the man who masterminded her highly impressive victory that was achieved with true world-class running.

The new Irish star has achieved the A standard to compete in the 3,000 metres steeplechase in the London Olympics next year but Jones said yesterday that she will not be running in this event.

Instead she will go about qualifying for the two longest events on the track, the 5,000m and 10,000m.

“Fionnuala is just not suitable to the steeple for a couple of reasons,” said Jones. “Primarily because of her slight physique it takes a real effort for her to get over the hurdles which is a handicap when compared to the best steeplechasers in the world.

“It took me quite a while to convince her that the ‘chase was just not her best event and it was unfair to keep asking her to compete at world-class level. And if you look at the best runners in the ‘chase they all have impressive times in the 1,500m and that is another disadvantage for Fionnuala.

“I would be confident that if things go according to plan in the next six months that Fionnuala will get the standards for both event and give a good account of herself in the 10,000m in London because she has the stamina and this ability to absorb whatever discomforts she will encounter.”

Britton qualified for London in the chase with a time of 9:37.60. However, she would need to be down to 9:25 at least to even make the final but will now have to reschedule her racing plans when the new outdoor season starts next May to get under the required A standards of 15:15.00 in the 5,000m and 31:45.00 for the 10,000m. These are both well within her compass considering she ran 15:21.45 for the shorter event in a mixed race in Belgium last June.

Jones was not in the least surprised by the rhythm Britton displayed around Sunday’s circuit. “I think we all saw for ourselves in Slovenia what a fantastic rhythm she has when in full flight and it was that relaxed, smooth and ground-devouring stride that broke her opponents and there was no sign of her slowing down at the finish.

“She just wore down the others and more or less ran them into submission and that will give her fantastic confidence for the future. Remember how well she has run in two World Cross Country Championships and was not in the least intimidated by the Africans. So 10,000m in London will be a very exciting prospect and she will love the idea of testing herself against the very cream.”

However, Jones also disclosed that, in the long term, the marathon can be the race where she can conquer new horizons. “Definitely she has a very big future in the marathon. Her relaxed style of running is ideal for it and will have no problem doing the necessary work in preparation but we are thinking in terms of the 2016 Olympics in Rio as her prime target,” added Jones.

“I would not entertain suggestions about the marathon if I was not sure that she could make a success of it. She has the perfect physique, a wonderful relaxed and deceptively long stride and she also has the mental capacity and the stamina to run with the best. She is 27 now which means that she would be 32 come Rio, a good age to reach a peak for the marathon.”

Again Jones paid tribute to the sense of appreciation which Britton shows to him for his efforts and the time he has given her in making her a better athlete.

“She is just a very kind person, very thoughtful and generous and if I was to go away for a day and gave her a highly demanding session I know she would do every stride of it. That is why she has developed into the world class athlete she is today.”

Many athletes who made a success of cross country running went on to great things in the marathon and two of the best have been Irish, John Treacy and Catherina McKiernan.

Britton is expected to resume competition at the big IAAF cross country challenge in Edinburgh early in the New Year, January 6th, an event she has run well in in the past.

Joe Sweeney had reason to have a bounce in his stride when he arrived home from Slovenia last evening following his finest performance ever when finishing fifth in the men’s event. He too can start thinking in terms of the 10,000m for the London Games because he seems to have built up the necessary strength to make a truly big impact on the distance.