Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC) finished a courageous fourth in the women’s 10,000m final on the final day of the European Track and Field Championships in Helsinki, Finland. The reigning European Cross Country Champion was a genuine medal contender going into these championships. Britton was understandable devastated with the result.
Britton said “I am really upset with that, fourth is the worst place to finish, no one wants to finish fourth. I can’t really say what went wrong, I knew the pace was going to be slow, thats why I picked it up. I didn’t want everyone just sitting on my shoulder, waiting to kick. I need to try and get this out of my system now; I have another 10,000m in a month at the Olympics.
Britton ran a courageous race, going into the lead with 19 laps remaining. Behind Britton there was a group of eight athletes following, including Great Britain’s Jo Pavey and Dulce Felix of Portugal. Britton continued to wind up the pace as the athletes started to suffer behind her, the surprise package was the young Ukranian runner Olha Skrypak who joined the front runners. With seven laps remaining Felix surged to the front and tore the field apart with her effort. Britton gallantly tried to catch her and battled all the way to the line, finishing fourth in a time of 32:05.54. Felix won the title from Pavey with the Ukranian athlete Skrypak setting a national junior record of 31:51.32, placed third.
Britton’s fourth position was the highest placing out of all the Irish athletes competing at the championships. Other standout performances over the week included Brian Gregan (Clonliffe Harriers), Jessie and Thomas Barr (Ferrybank AC) and Paul Hession (Athenry AC).
Gregan placed a magnificent sixth in the 400m men’s final. What is even more remarkable about the performance is, that coming into these championships, Gregan had missed a considerable block of training in early spring due to illness.
Gregan started off the championships with an outstanding personal best of 45.63 to win his heat. He then backed it up with a second place finish in his semi-final (45.76), his second fastest time ever, to qualify for the finals as a real medal contender. The final which would be Gregan’s third race in three days proved slightly too much as he injured his groin mid race and placed sixth when a medal was within reach. Gregan said “If it hadn’t been for the injury I know I would have got a medal”. None the less, these championships show cased the undeniable talent and potential Gregan possess.
Jessie Barr (Ferrybank AC) made her senior debut at these championships and delighted with an eight place finish in the women’s 400m hurdles final. Barr ran brilliantly in her semi final to set a new personal best of 55.93 and qualify for her first senior final at this level. Barr finished eighth in the final, however her event in particular, was of a very high standard with the winner Irina Davydova of Russia winning in a world leading time of 53.77.
Jessie’s brother Thomas Barr made the semi finals of the men’s 400m hurdles. Thomas at only 19, is one of the youngest members of the 26 strong Irish team in Helsinki. Barr set a season’s best time of 50.22 to finish fifth in his semi-final. Barr although disappointed with the result will take a lot from these championships and is certainly an athlete to watch out for in the future.
Paul Hession (Athenry AC) demonstrated his championship metal by making the 200m men’s final, placing eight. Hession dealt with the notoriously tight bends to make the final, signifying his preparations are on track for the Olympics. Hession’s training partner Steven Colvert (Crusaders AC) was disqualified in the heats for a lane infringement. Colvert is in the shape of his life, having broke both the 100m and 200m Irish under 23 records this year. Hession commenting about Colvert said “I know Steven is in much better shape than that. He is in at least 20.4 shape, the guy has been flying in training.”
Stephanie Reilly (Sli Chulainn AC) made the final of the women’s 3000m steeplechase, placing 12th in a time of 9:53.90. In order to qualify for the final Reilly ran a season’s best time of 9:44.15.
There were a few disappointing results at these championships, in particular the disqualification of Joanne Cuddihy (Kilkenny City Harriers AC) in the women’s 400m for a lane infringement. Cuddihy demonstrated the shape that she currently is in, when she returned for the relay later in the week and ran a storming second leg. Cuddihy moved Ireland from seventh position up to third in what can only be described as an outstanding piece of relay running. Unfortunately the women’s relay team would later be disqualified for an out of zone infringement, the same fate the Irish men’s 4×400m team would also suffer.
Speaking of the Irish performance, High Performance Director, Kevin Ankrom said “Fionnuala produced a solid performance to finish fourth. Brian and Jessie competed very well to make their respective finals showing their championship credentials at their first major. The women’s relay although disappointed to be disqualified they are still on target for an Olympic Games birth. This has been a championship of transition, in that we are seeing a fresh crop of new talent coming through”