It's not every night of the week you get to beat the reigning World champion. Coming off the penultimate hurdle, Thomas Barr saw his chance, maintained his stride and focus, and nailed it.
It made for a terrific start to the Morton Games, Barr winning the 400 metres hurdles ahead of Jehue Gordon from Trinidad and Tobago, the man who won the gold medal at the World Championships in Moscow last summer.
Almost as good was Barr’s winning time of 48.94 seconds – the second fastest time of his career, a Santry stadium record, and just off his Irish record of 48.90. The crowd loved it too.
“Absolutely delighted, to put it simply,” said Barr, who passed Gordon in the sprint for the line, leaving him to settle for second in 49.48. “I knew I had him, coming off hurdle nine, when he stumbled a little. That’s not being cocky, but my stride felt very neat, very clean, and I knew I just had to hold it to the line.”
Indeed it was a considerable scalp for the 21-year-old from Waterford, who also beat the seven-time Brazilian champion Mahau Suguimati, who took third in 49.94. Barr also admitted he was determined to improve on his third place at the Cork City Sports last Tuesday, and restore some winning form ahead of next month’s European Championships in Zurich.
“Yeah, my confidence was not good after that race in Cork, but it some ways I needed it, because it totally focused me again. I think beating Gordon shows that. But he’s still the World champion. He’ll be out for my blood now.”
It wasn't the only "perfect race" of the night: Mark English described his 800m victory as exactly that, as he coolly accelerated away around the final bend to win comfortably in 1:45.30, another stadium record. "Yeah, I'm in the shape of my life," said English, also still only 21. "I told myself coming here I was going to win, nothing else, and I just hope I can maintain that form now for the European Championships in Zurich."
Indeed in this form English will certainly be in the medal hunt come Zurich, set for the second week in August. Chasing hard was fellow Zurich qualifier Paul Robinson (who will go over 1,500m) and ended up fourth here in 1:46.40. Yet English looked to be in a class of his own, running with brilliant confidence, despite some high quality opposition, with the American Ryan Martin taking second in 1:45.79, and the Australia Ryan Gregson third in 1:46.27
It all climaxed brilliantly with the feature event, the Morton Mile, where the American Will Leer ran a superb 3:51.82 – yet another stadium record. Also running a great race was John Travers, who ran his first sub-four mile, running an excellent 3:55.44. Kelly Proper, competing in Germany, also qualified for Zurich by clocking a lifetime best of 23.16 for the 200m.
RESULTS: Men – 100m: A Fraser (Bah) 10.20, 2 H Bruintjies (South Africa) 10.34, 3 G Cackett (Eng) 10.49 400m: 1 B Spratling (USA) 45.26, 2 J Solomon (Tri) 45.34, 3 J Harris (USA), 45.50, 7 B Gregan (Irl) 46.59 800m: 1 M English (Irl) 1:45.30; 2 R Martin (USA) 1:45.79, 3 R Gregson (Aus) 1:46.27; 4 P Robinson (Irl) 1:46.40 Morton Mile: 1 W Leer (USA) 3:51.82, 2 P Casey (USA) 3:52.62, 3 C Leslie (USA) 3:53.41; 6 J Travers (Irl) 3:55.44 3,000m: 1 J Barrios (Mexico) 7:44.21, 2 T Dunbar (USA) 7:45.09, 3 T Nurme (Est) 7:48.24; 6 K Batt (Irl) 7:54.57. 400m hurdles: 1 T Barr (Irl) 48.94; 2 J Gordon (Tri) 49.48; 3 M Siguimati (Bra) 49.94. Women – 100m: 1 C Horn (South Africa) 11.36, 2 C Van Buren (USA) 11.56, 3 L Kerian (irl) 12.0 800m P Wright (Aus) 2:01.91, 2 S Kajan (Aus) 2:01.96, 3 R Aubry (Can), 2:02.91; 8 L Crowe (Irl) 2:04.63 Mile: M Huddle (USA) 4:26.84, 2 M Duncan (USA) 4:26.90, 3 A Praught (USA) 4:27.61; 7 C Durkin (Irl) 4:41.80