Friday 28 July 2017

Athletics: O'Rourke's steel brings home silver

Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

Derval O'Rourke ensured Ireland finished a disappointing week at the European Athletics Championships on a high note with a brilliant silver medal in the 100 metres hurdles in Barcelona last night.

O'Rourke showed her trademark nerves of steel last night to put in a superb performance, just missing out on gold to Turkey's Nevin Yanit in a time of 12.65 seconds, a national record, by two hundredths of a second.

O'Rourke got off to a perfect start in lane seven. The 29-year-old was quickly into her stride, attacking the hurdles with confidence and she finished well, dipping over the line to secure Ireland's only medal of the games.

The 2006 silver medallist edged Carolin Nytra into third place, the German finished ahead of O'Rourke in the semi-final and is the fastest woman in Europe with 12.57. O'Rourke, coached by Sean and Terri Cahill entered the championships under the radar, ranked 11th after a disruptive season but as always produces her best runs on the big stage.

"I don't know why but I just love championships," said a jubilant O'Rourke. "I seem to target one day a year and to be able to put in a performance at this level is brilliant.

"I had a really bad fall a few weeks ago and physically I was ok but mentally I was a bit shocked by it. I just fell hard and I think to run at the hurdles as fast as I could took a bit of time but I'm ok that it happened here today ill take that."

Earlier O'Rourke qualified for the final with an impressive semi-final run cruising over the line on time of 12.75.

A big Irish contingent was in attendance to watch O'Rourke sprint to glory. "There are so many Irish people here when I was doing my lap of honour I almost got emotional. All week people were telling me that they were going to be here but I just blocked it out, I kept telling myself its just you racing the girls, there is nobody else here but as soon as I finished I realised that everyone is here, my family, my coach, my friends."

The Irish men's 4x400m relay team missed out on a golden opportunity to qualify for the final at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona yesterday when David Gillick opted out of the race.

The 400m national record holder decided not to take his place in the team for yesterday morning's heats after his disappointing run in the 400m final on Friday night.

"After his race David felt he would be unable to run so I went to the next available member of the team," said Ireland team coach Patsy McGonagle yesterday.

That should have been substitute David McCarthy but the 800m runner was unavailable for personal reasons and so it fell to the inexperienced 19-year-old Steven Colvert -- who had never previously run a 400m -- to run the crucial final leg for the Irish team.

The team of Gordon Kennedy, Brian Murphy, Brian Gregan and Colvert got off to a superb start and appeared comfortable in third position coming into the last leg. But Colvert's inexperience told as the team finished in sixth spot in a time of 3:07.21.

"I'm sure if David had been in the team and been able to run they would have qualified for the final," agreed McGonagle.

Elsewhere, Ireland had no success in the women's relay, the 4x100m and 4x400m teams both failing to reach the finals of their events despite setting national records.

The 4x100 quartet of Niamh Whelan, Claire Brady, Ailis McSweeney and Amy Foster finished fourth, one place out of automatic qualification on a time of 43.93, well inside the previous national record of 44.68. Their hopes of qualifying as a fastest loser were dashed when the second heat proved to be a faster race.

The women's 4x400 team of Marian Andrews, Joanne Cuddihy, Brona Furlong and Michelle Carey finished fifth in their heat, but set a national record of 3:30.11. They were in contention for the early part of the race after a few very strong opening legs but failed to capitalise on their impressive start.

"There has been a good performance level in the team. It's been a rollercoaster with ups and downs but the team overall has performed well," said McGonagle.

Alastair Cragg had a disappointing run in the 5000m final. After showing well in the early stages, Cragg fell away and did not complete the distance.

Sunday Independent

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