Tokyo 2020 August 5th Report
Brendan Boyce secured a brilliant top-10 finish in the men's 50km walk at the Olympic Games , while Alex Wright was 29th in a race won by Poland's Dawid Tomala on the streets of Sapporo, both crossing the line in the early hours of Friday morning. Conditions were brutal out on course with many athletes dropping out of the race in the 28°c heat and 75% humidity.
In his third Olympic Games, it marked the Letterkenny man's best ever finish after a strong finish saw him pick up two places in the final 5km to finish 3:32 adrift of the race winner.
Reflecting on the race, Boyce was satisfied with his top-10 placing, as he passed a few walkers late on to secure that position.
"It was a battle in the last few km but I hung in," he told RTÉ Sport.
"I was in the elite group until 35K but the way the race panned out meant I wasn't going to get a medal - still it was great to come away with a top 10.
I made up two spot in the last two or three laps - I wasn't giving up hope - a few guys ahead of me were struggling as well and I managed to pip a Polish lad to get the top 10."
"I worked for the top ten definitely so I'm happy – happy to get that kind of a result in these conditions and back up what I did two years ago in Doha," he said. "The race tactics were good, it was kind of the way I planned – to go out steady and push through the race."
It was a particularly bright start from 34-year-old Boyce, who crossed the 5km mark in fourth position, and by 10km was part of a chasing group, 27 seconds down on the Chinese athlete in 16th place.
At the same stage, Wright was positioned in 42nd position, a further 13 seconds adrift.
Luo's lead was whittled down and by the halfway stage, Letterkenny native Boyce among a group of 18 walkers at the front of the race, with Poland's Dawid Tomala driving the pace.
Wright was 2:51 down on the race leader in 48th position.
Boyce, the sixth-place finisher at the 2019 World Championships stuck dutifully to the task, though Tomala pushed hard at the front to put daylight between him and the rest of the challengers.
With 10km to go, that advantage was pushed out to 2:50 with the chasing pack beginning to splinter.
Boyce was moved up the pecking order and by the 40km mark he was in 11th.
Tomala, despite tiring, had too big a lead to be caught, with Germany's Jonathan Hilbert and Spain's Marc Tur neck-and-neck on the final lap. The German finished the stronger to take silver, while Tur was overtaken on the home stretch by Canada's Evan Dunfee for bronze.
Wright picked up six places in the final 5km to finish in 29th position to round out a superb Olympic Games for the three Irish walkers in action.
European U23 silver medallist David Kenny (Farranfore Maine Valley AC) produced a brilliant display in the 20K Walk on his Olympic debut. Kenny secured a top 30 placing to cross the line in 1:26:54 (29th) in extremely tough and humid conditions.
The 22-year-old’s tactics were perfect from the offset and saw him comfortably placed in 32nd at the 10k mark.
Kenny, who came into the race ranked 50th of those starting, maintained his rhythm to pick up more places before crossing the line in 29th place at his first Olympic Games, a feat which almost mirrored his coach and Olympic bronze medallist Robert Heffernan who finished 28th on his Olympic debut.
The race won by Italy’s Massimo Stano of Italy in 1:21:05.
Andrew Coscoran's first Olympics came to an end with another brilliant display in the semi-final of the 1500m.
The race would be won by Britain's Jake Wightman in 3:33.48, with the Balbriggan man crossing in 10th in a time of 3:35.84, which was just outside his personal best of 3:35.66.
The Paris Olympics in three years' time is now a target for the Star of the Sea athlete who hopes to build on his impressive first showing at an Olympic Games.
Speaking to RTE he said: "This is my first world senior event. I've done European indoors. But this is the first world stage and I've made the semis. I'm chuffed, and going forward I think I can get into some of the bigger races like the Diamond League.”
The men’s 50k Walk takes place at 9.30pm on Thursday evening where the duo of Alex Wright (Leevale) and Brendan Boyce (Finn Valley) make their Tokyo debuts.
Wright, who booked his place early for Tokyo with his 1:20:50 PB in Spain in 2019 will be looking to better his 46th place finish on his Olympic debut in Rio in 2016 (1:25:25).
Brendan Boyce will be another looking to build on previous Olympic outings.
Boyce finished 26th in London 2012 and 19th in Rio 2016 before going on to continue the progress by producing a 6th place finish at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019.
The Robert Heffernan trained athlete has shown that sweltering race conditions are no barrier to his performance and the Finn Valley AC athlete will look to be up amongst the leading contenders as the race enters the final stages.