Athletics: O'Rourke faces tough task to reel in red-hot European rival
Derval O'Rourke received a clear warning over the weekend that she will have to be at her very best if she hopes to win the European indoor 60m hurdles title in Paris next month.
O'Rourke has earned a reputation for producing her best on the big stage, picking up silver in the 100m hurdles in the Europeans last summer and bronze in the Euro indoors two years ago.
However, O'Rourke now faces an uphill battle if she hopes to add the Euro title to the world championship title she won in Moscow in 2006.
Among those O'Rourke bossed in Barcelona last year was Germany's much-vaunted Carolin Nytra, who came into the championships on the back of an impressive 12.57.
But come the final she could only manage 12.68 and had to settle for third place as the Irish star clocked 12.65.
But now Nytra has come out for the indoor season in the form of her life and showed this at the Sparkassen Cup Indoor Classic in Stuttgart on Saturday night when she clocked 7.92 over 60m -- the fastest time in the world this season.
That is superior to O'Rourke's seasonal opener of 8.16, which she ran in Linz last week, and while one can expect the Irish star to be faster in Paris, the German's time will give O'Rourke plenty to think about as she prepares for her next race.
Meanwhile, Fionnuala Britton ran herself to a standstill in the 3,000m in Stuttgart, finishing fourth in a high-class race in 9:00.70.
While this was more than 20 seconds inside her previous best, it was still a frustrating seven-tenth's of a second outside the qualifying standard for Paris.
Elsewhere, Dublin City University (DCU) were rewarded for their investment in sport when they dominated the Irish Universities Indoor Athletics Championships in Nenagh over the weekend.
They won a lot if not quite everything and their Donegal-born star 800m runner, Darren McBrearty -- who recently ran the fastest 800m time in Europe -- showed that he has plenty of stamina to go with his speed when he won the 1,500m in a useful 3:51.59.
DCU's Brian Gregan won the 400m in 48.99 and qualified for Paris in the process.
Chris Russell, from the same stable, took the 200m in 22.39 and Ulster's star sprinter Amy Foster won the women's 60m in 7.57 after clocking 7.49 in her heat.
Foster's team-mate Adam McMullen took the long jump in 7.22m.