Athletics: Britton focused on going the distance
FIONNUALA BRITTON, like Alistair Cragg, has decided to move up in distance and target the 10,000m at the European Championships in Barcelona this summer.
The petite Wicklow star was Ireland's top finisher (10th) at the European Cross-Countries in Santry last December and won a European U-23 silver medal in 2006.
She has previously run the 3,000m steeplechase on track and was 12th over barriers in the last World Championships in Osaka.
But Britton's resolve to make a serious move to longer distances is indicated by her current location -- in the Rift Valley in Kenya at the training base of famous Irish coach, Br Colm O'Connell.
The Patrician brother from Mallow has trained a host of Kenyan stars, from Peter Rono and Wilson Kipketer to his current stand-outs like Isaac Songok and Augustine Choge, and Irish athletes are always welcome to train there alongside his charges.
Britton is currently in the middle of a three-month training spell at altitude in Iten and is not due home until mid-May, her coach Pat Diskin said.
"The way women's steeplechase has developed, you really need to be running 9:15 to 9:10 to win medals and Fionnuala doesn't have the raw speed for that," Diskin said. "She may throw in a steeplechase this summer for training purposes but the 10,000m is her focus for Europeans."
Like Cragg, Britton still has to get the necessary qualifying standard (33 minutes flat) and her first serious attempt is likely to be the European 10,000m Cup in Marseille on June 5.
One of Britton's greatest performances to date was finishing 14th at a sweltering World Cross Countries in Mombasa in '07 and Irish club champions Linda Byrne (DSD) and Donore's John Travers (junior), will be Ireland's only representatives at that event in Bydgoszcz, Poland on Sunday.
Irish senior men's champion Mark Kenneally declined a place on the team as he, like Britton, is currently focused on Barcelona.
With Kenenisa Bekele (injured) and Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese (road-racing at present) out, the Kenyan men -- especially 19-year-old national champion Paul Tanui -- will be hoping for their first individual title since Paul Tergat won in Belfast in 1999.
Kenya's Florence Kiplagat outsprinted team-mate Linet Masai to take the women's title in Amman last year but three-time Ethiopian champion Tirunesh Dibaba is back in a loaded senior women's race.