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Revised marathon result means Gary O’Hanlon wins Irish title

Freddy Sittuk came home first in Dublin marathon but result has been overturned

Gary O’Hanlon of Clonliffe Harriers A.C reacts after crossing the finish line during the SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon 2017 at Merrion Square in Dublin City. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Athletics Ireland have revised the result of the national marathon championships, incorporated into Sunday’s Dublin marathon, and declared Gary O’Hanlon the winner.

O’Hanlon finished second on the day behind Kenyan-born runner Freddy Sittuk, but a meeting of the Competition Committee of Athletics Ireland on Wednesday night decided that Sittuk had failed to meet the required criteria for eligibility under the residency rule.

This follows the receipt of information from Raheny Shamrock AC, the club which Sittuk represents. Sittuk was confirmed as eligible by his club prior to the event when, in fact, he hadn’t spent the required “unbroken” six months in the country.

Under the rule agreed by the delegates at the 2016 Athletics Ireland Congress an athlete is only eligible to compete for the National championships title and medal positions “with an unbroken six months residency in Ireland immediately prior to the championship.” Sittuk had returned to his native Kenya in the weeks before Dublin.

Commenting on the situation, Athletics Ireland’s Competition Committee Chairman John Cronin said: “The information initially received by the Association indicated that Freddy Sittuk was eligible and therefore he was deemed champion on Sunday.

“Once we received information from the club stating that the athlete had, in fact, not met the criteria, the Committee met to discuss the situation and Gary O’Hanlon has been deemed marathon champion”.

“The process for confirming residency eligibility for National Championships has, up to this event, worked well but the fact that Gary was not awarded this title and his gold medal on Sunday is very regrettable. We do, however, look forward to presenting Gary with his Championship title and medal shortly.”

Moments after crossing the finish line of the Dublin marathon on Sunday O’Hanlon believed he was the top Irish finisher on the day, only to be informed that actually he wasn’t - denied that honour by Sittuck, who was born and still does most of his training in Iten, high in the Great Rift Valley.

“I didn’t know he (Freddy) 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. 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 in a national title, and I run 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.”

And now, as it turns out, he has.