Fionnuala Britton put in a battling performance in the women’s 10,000 meters final tonight to finish in 15th position in 31:46.7, an event won by Ethiopian runner Tirunesh Dibaba in 30:20.75.
Britton delivered a typical full on performance over the opening half of this event and held down fourth place for a sustained period as three Japanese runners cut out the early pace. Britton looked strong and full of running as she closely tracked the Japanese runners, but with sixteen of the twenty five laps remaining, and the tempo lifting, the Wicklow woman showed the first sign that she was starting to struggle.
A lap later, Britton made a determined down the home straight, but over the second half of the race she was cut adrift as Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes took control of the race and threw in a series of surging laps. Werknesh Kidane of Ethiopia worked hard at the front between 6,000 and 8,000 meters, and with one thousand meters remaining, it was the Kenyan runner Sally Kipyego who was leading a group of four runners who were now in medal contention.
Tirunesh Dibaba unleashed a blistering final lap to take gold for Ethiopia with Sally Kipyego of Kenya taking silver in 30:26.37 and another Kenyan, Vivian Cheruiyot, filling the bronze medal position in 30:30.44. The two Kenyan athletes delivered personal best times and Dibaba’s time was also a season’s best.
Speaking after the race an emtional Britton said: “There is no point in making excuses, I have no regrets about the way I ran early on. The first half was fine. I just regret that I could not keep it up for the second half. It would be worse if I ran like I did - started at the back and just stayed there. I gave myself a chance and unfortunately on the day it just did not work out.”
Britton plans on running in the 5000 meters qualifying heats on Tuesday, a second chance to show her true form. “I will speak with my coach Chris Jones, but right now my plans are to run the 5,000 meters,” she said. “Whenever you do something wrong, you always want to go out and fix it- don’t you”, she said.
Earlier in the evening Ciaran O’Lionaird’s Olympic dream came to an end when he ran 3:48.35 in the third qualifying heat of the men’s 1500m to finish 13th. The race was won by Nick Willis of New Zealand in 3:40.92 - the slowest winning time from the three qualifying heats.
O’Lionaird was still in contention for a top six qualifying position as the runners set out on the final two laps and he tried running wide at this point to get himself into an attacking position. However, as the pace began to wind up at the head of the field, it became evident that the Cork athlete was under severe pressure.
In the Mixed Zone O’Lionaird spoke candidly about what has been a most frustrating year of injury-especially an Achilles tendon problem on his left leg. “The scans on the Achilles tendon have been clear but the pain is still there.”
The Cork man had a breakthrough year in 2011 to make the final of the World Championships in Daegu and while he is initially expressed uncertainty about his future he subsequently expressed a motivation to continue onto 2016 on Twitter.
The first of the three 1500m qualifying heats was won by Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria in a blistering 3:35.15. Britain’s Ross Murray qualified for the final in 4th place with 3:36.74. The second heat was won by Mohammed Swaween (KSA) in a slower time of 3:39.42 and saw another British athlete- Andrew Braddeley qualify for the semi-final when placing sixth in 3:40.34.
Next in action for the Irish is Tori Pena in the Pole Vault at 10.20 in the morning.