Time now to be making those London times, folks
ON ATHLETICS:HOW MANY times were you asked about the weather this week, as if summer had come and gone already? Fear not, things are only heating up – at least if you’re thinking about that athletics gig in London at the end of July.
Believe it or not our so-called summer season officially kicks-off this weekend. Or rather it did last night, if you’re on the west coast of America. The marathon season is actually about to peak. What I’m saying is any Irish athlete still serious about qualifying for the Olympics would want to be touching that A-standard very soon, if they haven’t done so. Otherwise, when it comes to the showdown, they won’t be there.
We know the Olympic Council of Ireland aren’t even contemplating the B-standard. I’m happy my feelings on that are being proved wrong, at least for now, although that’s not saying we’ve heard the last of it. So who exactly is in? Or still in the hunt? July 8th is the official deadline, but I can tell you right now the names worth getting to know – if you didn’t know them already.
THE DEFINITELY DEFINITE
Fionnuala Britton: Actually our first London qualifier on the track, running 9:37.60 for the 3,000m steeplechase in New York last June, and by the time you read this, will probably have qualified for the 5,000m too. Britton was running overnight at the Stanford Invitational, targeting the 15:20 A-standard. Britton should also get the 10,000m A-standard of 31:45 by the end of the month, the distance she wants to contest in London.
Derval O’Rourke: Twice ran the London A-standard last summer, with a best of 12.84 at Chaux-de-Fonds in July, although with Australia’s Sally Pearson taking sprint hurdling times down to 12.28, O’Rourke will want to run quicker again before London.
Paul Hession: Dipped under the 200m A-standard with his 20.51 in Santry in July, although that remained his best for the year, and Hession admits himself 2012 must be about revisiting his Irish record of 20.30, set in 2007.
Ciarán Ó Lionáird: He didn’t run 3:34.46 for 1,500m last August by accident, and despite the notable blip on his indoor season, remains one of our best hopes for a track final in London.
Olive Loughnane: She’s not getting any younger, but who is? Loughnane’s 1:31.55 for the 20km walk last June still makes her competitive, and she’s not away in Monte Gordo right now to get sun on her back.
Deirdre Ryan: Our first Olympic women’s high jumper thanks to the 1.95m she cleared in Daegu last September, to make the World Championship final, and is justifiably aiming higher again for London.
Alistair Cragg: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited to open up my season,” he said before running a European 5km road record of 13:26 in Carlsbad last weekend, and was attempting a 1,500-5,000m double in Stanford last night. His 13:03.53 in Brussels last September has already assured his place in London for what will be his third Olympics, and you know what they say about the third time.
Robert Heffernan: Safely qualified in both the 20km and 50km walk, but focusing on the longer distance where his full potential is largely unexplored, and could well explode in London.
Brendan Boyce: A surprise qualifier in the 50km walk, his 3:57:58 in Naumburg last September under in the 3:59.0 A-standard, but Boyce bettered that again last month with his 3:57.53 in Slovakia, effectively ensuring his selection.
Tori Pena: Another first in Irish Olympic history as Pena cleared 4.50m in California last month, bang on the A-standard, and there’s no one else even close.
Stephanie Reilly: Like Britton, ran the 3,000m steeplechase A-standard in New York last June, running 9:42.91.
THE MAYBE DEFINITE
Mark Kenneally: Our first London Olympic marathon qualifier thanks to the 2:13:55 he ran in Amsterdam last October, well under the 2:15 A-standard, but Kenneally can’t relax just yet, not with three more Irish men running the Rotterdam marathon on Sunday week.
Linda Byrne: Ran 2:36:23 in Dublin last October to become our first women’s Olympic marathon A-standard qualifier since 1988 (Pauline Curley got to Beijing on a B-standard) and has been joined by two more, which already gives Ireland it’s full quota, again making for a somewhat nervous wait.
Ava Hutchinson: Ran 2:35.33 in Houston in January, the fastest of the three Irish marathon woman qualifiers so far, and probably the safest of them too.
Maria McCambridge: Ran 2:36:37 in Rome last month, just under the 2:37.0 A-standard, on a tough course, and having nearly missed out on Athens eight years ago, won’t want to contemplate that scenario again.
The women’s 4x400m Relay: Marian Heffernan, Joanne Cuddihy, Claire Bergin, and Michelle Carey ran an Irish record of 3:27.48 in Daegu in September, and coupled with the 3:31.25 they ran at the European Cup, ranks them 12th in the world – with the top 16 teams, as of July 2nd, invited to London. They look safe, which affords Ireland another six athletes in total.
David Gillick: Injury denied him the chance to run the 400m A-standard of 45.30 last summer, but with a best of 44.77 from 2009, and his 44.79 in 2010, it’s presumably only a matter of time before Gillick does qualify – presuming he hasn’t forgotten what it takes.
Joanne Cuddihy: She’s already got one foot in through the relay, but Cuddihy is also targeting the individual 400m A-standard of 51.55, which recent form in Australia suggest is only a matter of time too.
THE DEFINITELY MAYBES
Ciara Mageean: She’s just turned 20, but try telling Mageean she’s still a little young to be targeting London, when she ran 4:07.45 for the 1,500m last summer, and the A-standard of 4:06.0 looks within reach.
Jason Smyth: He ran 10.22 for the 100m last May, and 10.18 will get him a place in London, although there’s also the significant target of the Paralympics to contend with.
Seán Connolly: One of the three Irish men running Rotterdam next weekend, having run 2:17:23 there last year, seeming better prepared to eclipse that 2:15.
Caitriona Jennings: Also Rotterdam bound, having run 2:43:08 in Dublin last October, and if conditions hold up has to go close to the 2:36.
THE MAYBE MAYBES
Thomas Frazer: Formerly of St Malachy’s, Belfast, now US based, and also running Rotterdam with sub-2:15 in mind.
Gary Thornton: Has taken a year’s leave of absence from teaching to prepare for Rotterdam, having run 2:19.27 in Amsterdam last October.
Lizzie Lee: Will make her debut in Rotterdam, hoping the old adage about your first marathon being your best proves true.
Gareth Turnbull: He mightn’t like me blowing his cover but he’s been training hard to rediscover his old form, including a stint in Kenya, and still has the wheels to go for the 5,000m.
Mark Christie: Another capable of that elusive sub-13:20 for 5,000m, and surely now or never.
Colin Griffin: Still our best bet for a third man in the 50km walk, but time is running out.
Ailis McSweeney: If there was one great comeback story for London then how about Ireland’s fastest women, struck down by an Achilles’ heel in 2011, running that 11.29 A-standard in the 100m. She has run 11.40, after all.