Thomas Barr makes light of outside lane to claim bronze in Berlin
Waterford hurdler enjoys career high; Leon Reid finds pace too hot in final of 200m
Ireland’s Thomas Barr celebrates winning the bronze medal in the 400m hurdles at the European Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Wow. In the final moment he simply ducked and dived and reached out to grab it, and with that Thomas Barr won a brilliant European bronze medal in the final of the 400 metres hurdles.
It was brave and epic and bold all rolled into one – and a medal won out in lane eight too, making it a race where Barr could hear everything and see nothing until coming into the straight.
But he was exactly where he wanted to be, chasing down two of the very best in the business in world champion Karsten Warlhom from Norway and defending European champion Yasmani Copello, the Cuban-born athlete now representing Turkey.
Warlhom took the win in another sensational time of 47.64, Copello also improved his national record in second with 47.81, Barr clocking 48.21, his third fastest time ever time with his fourth-place finish in the Rio Olympic final two years ago, where he ran 47.97, still his best run.
This remember in a near flat-out lap of the track lined with 10 hurdles, each three-foot high, where anything can and often does go wrong, and where Barr did everything right – going out hard, as he said he would, and using his vast reserves of strength and enthusiasm to hold off Ludvy Vaillant from France in the lane just inside him. Vaillant finished fourth in his lifetime best of 48.31, Barr thus edging him out by .11.
Against seven other men, six already running quicker this season, Barr produced one of the races of his life, the 26 year-old Waterford athlete, looking utterly relaxed before the start, punching the air with sheer joy and satisfaction on crossing the line, as well he might.
He also beat out Rasmus Magi from Estonia, who won silver four years ago, and the fast improving 22 year-old Patryk Dobek from Poland.
Typical of Barr he’d been talking up and talking down his chances at the same time: a final too with a properly European feel: French, Norwegian, Estonian, Turkish (with some Cuban sprinkling on there too) Polish, Spanish, and Timofey Chalyy, the Authorized Neutral Athlete from Russia, the national still banned for their previous doping record.
Barr had described lane eight as like running with the blinkers on, and in his own race – as much as he would be anyway.
And so after 84 years he becomes the first Irish male athlete to win a medal in a sprint event at the European Championships, and also now joins that strictly elite list of Irish medal winners at these championships: Delany, Murphy, Coghlan, O’Sullivan, O’Rourke, Heffernan, English, Mageean.
It was a very hard act to follow, and just 50 minutes after Barr ran himself on to the medal podium of the 400 metres hurdles, Leon Reid realised just how hard these medals are to win.
Also running out in lane eight, the Bath-based sprinter gave himself every chance, running strongly around the bend only to realise the medals were soon running away from him, coming home seventh best.
Reigning World champion Ramil Guliyev from Turkey struck gold in a championship record of 19.76 seconds, a truly world-class time. It was a lot closer for second as Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchel-Blake claimed silver with his 20.04, the same time as Alex Wilson from Switzerland, his 20.04 a national record.
Reid clocked 20.37, his third fastest of his career, and just off of the Irish record of 20.30 he is now qualified to break, just six days after being cleared from Great Britain.
Running bold and brave in equal measure, Reid came into the stretch with just a little too much to do. He had run 20.38 seconds in his semi-final, making that final still one big step forward on what was his Irish senior debut.