Tokyo Games: Fionnuala McCormack among Irish marathon team

Wicklow woman joins elite club as seven individuals selected for marathon and walking

Fionnuala McCormack competing in the Women’s Marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Fionnuala McCormack competing in the Women’s Marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Fionnuala McCormack joins an elite club of Irish athletes after being selected for her fourth summer Olympics, the Wicklow woman among the seven individuals confirmed for the marathons and race walking events.

With the Tokyo Olympics set to open in just under five weeks’ time, these seven will all compete in Sapporo, 800km north of Tokyo, from August 5th to 8th, where conditions are expected to be more favourable for such endurance events.

McCormack ran her first Olympics in Beijing in the 3,000m steeplechase, then the 10,000m in London in 2012, also running the marathon in Rio in 2016. She is joined in the women’s event by Aoife Cooke from Cork, while three Belfast runners will make up the men’s trio: Paul Pollock, Kevin Seaward and Stephen Scullion.

Brendan Boyce has also been selected for his third Olympics, the first Irish athlete across all sports to achieve an Olympic qualification time, and will compete in the men’s 50km Race Walk alongside Rio Olympian Alex Wright.

McCormack qualified for Tokyo after she ran 2:26.47 in the 2019 Chicago marathon; gave birth to her second daughter last December, and has since resumed full training in the build-up to Tokyo.

Just last month, Cooke added her name with victory in the Cheshire Elite Marathon: there she was just under a minute inside the necessary Tokyo standard of 2:29:30, improving her personal best by almost four minutes to 2:28:36 in winning the women’s race, also moving her to number four on the all-time Irish list, only the fifth Irish woman to break 2:30.

Of the three Irish men’s qualifiers already, Scullion is the fastest, thanks to the 2:09:49 he clocked at the elite-only London Marathon last October, over two minutes faster than his previous best, and 11th best in a strictly elite field of the world’s finest marathon runners. Tokyo will be his first Olympics, while both Pollock and Seaward competed in Rio in the marathon.

Seaward put himself first in line for selection after clocking a lifetime best of 2:10.10 at the Seville Marathon, in February 2020; Pollock clocked his qualifier in December 2019, in the Valencia Marathon, also a new personal best of 2:10.25, also inside the automatic Tokyo time.

“It is a real honour to compete in the Tokyo Olympics for Team Ireland,” said Pollock. “Having already competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, I am looking forward to pulling on the Irish vest once more. I’m excited about being based in the city of Sapporo, which is that extra bit special for having already hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, and I’m looking forward to the welcome that we will get. It will be a very different experience of course, without any spectators, but we are there to perform to our best and I am extremely proud to be part of the team.”

Olympic Federation of Ireland Sports Director Martin Burke will be heading up the Irish delegation in Sapporo. This is the first of two Team Ireland Tokyo announcements for athletics, with the second one scheduled for early July, and which will name the track and field athletes who will be selected, as well as athletes in the 20km Race Walk. The Games in Tokyo will run from July 23rd to August 8th

Team Ireland Tokyo Games Athletics Announcement

Athletics Marathon Men

Paul Pollock (Rio Olympian)

Stephen Scullion

Kevin Seaward (Rio Olympian)

Athletics Marathon Women

Aoife Cooke

Fionnuala McCormack (Beijing, London, Rio Olympian)

Athletics Men’s 50km Race Walk

Brendan Boyce (London, Rio Olympian)

Alex Wright (Rio Olympian)

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