Thursday 21 September 2017

Australia's Mayo star Diver happy to shine for two nations

Sinead Diver, from Belmullet, Co. Mayo, representing Australia, with her mother Bridie following her 21st place finish in the Women's Marathon event
Sinead Diver, from Belmullet, Co. Mayo, representing Australia, with her mother Bridie following her 21st place finish in the Women's Marathon event
Sinead Diver, from Belmullet, Co Mayo but representing Australia in Beijing, on her way to finishing in 21st place the women’s marathon yesterday

Cathal Dennehy

Mayo's Sinéad Diver finished 21st in the women's marathon at the World Championships in Beijing yesterday morning, though the 38-year-old from Belmullet - who has lived in Australia for the past 13 years - did it wearing the green and gold of her adopted nation.

The South Melbourne AC athlete finished in 2.36:38 and afterwards her coach Tim Crosbie explained that the decision to switch allegiance to Australia had not lessened her affinity for her home nation.

"She said to me: 'Tim, I'm running for two countries today, it doesn't matter what uniform I've got on,'" said Crosbie. "Her fingernails were painted green, white and gold. It was pulling at the heart strings for Sinéad (to represent Australia) because her heritage is Irish and she's lived there for most of her life."

Diver, a mother of two, only took up the sport at the age of 33 but has since progressed rapidly, running a personal best of 2.34:15 in Melbourne last year. While her time was well inside the Australian and IAAF qualification standard for the World Championships of 2.44:00, Athletics Ireland applied their own, more difficult standard of 2.33:30.

"Some of the critical things for her were the ability to compete at these championships," said Crosbie. "She wasn't going to be given that opportunity with what I thought were ridiculous qualification times (set out by Athletics Ireland) for this particular event. I thought they went well out of their way to make it difficult.

"Australia went down that path a few years ago and where did it lead us? Nowhere. Since then we've been more realistic about our targets and it's brought up the level. If you set hard targets, people don't even try. You need to give people a reason to train."

Having made it to Beijing representing her adopted nation, Diver was pleased with her performance in mild but extremely humid temperatures yesterday morning.

"If I had got top-20 I'd have been ecstatic, but I'm okay with 21st," she said.

"I knew I was in good form and I was fit, so I just had to run a smart race. It was so hard at the end. I had to remind myself to enjoy it out there and soak it all in."

Diver, who celebrated her performance by cheering on Mayo in the All-Ireland football semi-final last night, hopes her performance will now put her as one of the leading candidates for the Australian Olympic team next year.

Meanwhile, the final night of action in the Bird's Nest Stadium saw Kenya's Asbel Kiprop shrug off a bout of flu to retain his world 1500m title in 3.34:40.

"I came here not to run but to win," said Kiprop. "I am so proud of myself."

Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba was upset in the women's 5000m, team-mate Almaz Ayana setting a searing pace over the final two kilometres, which proved enough to break Dibaba three laps from home and grant her a first world title in a championship record of 14.26:83. There was another surprise in the men's high jump, with Canada's Derek Drouin taking gold with a best of 2.34m.

In the women's 4x400m relay, Jamaica sprung a surprise on race favourites USA, while the Americans were able to gain some compensation in the finale to the championships, the men's 4x400m relay, taking gold in 2:57.82.

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