IAAF change forces tweak to Olympic marathon mark
ATHLETICS Ireland (AAI) has clarified that the Olympic standards ratified this week by the international athletics federation (IAAF) will apply to Irish athletes for next year's Summer Games.
There will only be one standard for 2016 (no 'A' and 'B' marks, like previously) and AAI had already agreed provisional standards with the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) and informed prospective marathoners that they would accept 2:18 (men) and 2:44 (women) for Rio 2016.
Those were based on what the OCI expected to IAAF to agree with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) but when the IAAF ratified their qualification standards this week they made some slight variations and the marathon standards were hardened slightly to 2:17 and 2:42. Four Irish men competed in last Sunday's Rotterdam Marathon and two of them, Mick Clohisey (2:17.43) and Thomas Frazier (2:17.45) broke 2:18, while the other two - Gary Thornton (2:18.22) and Sean Hehir (2:19.24) - were not far off it.
Clohisey and Frazier initially believed they had met Ireland's Olympic qualifying standard but yesterday's clarification means it has narrowly eluded them. There is actually a much bigger difference between the 2016 Olympic standards and the marathon marks that AAI has already set for this summer's World Championships.
The times the IAAF will accept for Beijing are 2:18 and 2:44 respectively, which are accepted to be very 'soft'.
Athletics Ireland has set the bar for the Worlds a lot higher - at 2:15.30 and 2:33.30 respectively - and AAI's national endurance coach Chris Jones has confirmed to the 'Irish Independent' that they wanted those substantially tougher standards to also apply for the Olympics but the OCI insisted on sticking with the IAAF's much easier marks.
Raheny's Clohisey (29) was happy with his excellent 2:18 marathon debut last Sunday but admitted that he immediately knew he will have to run faster to get a spot for Rio.
"I just wanted to have a positive experience and a solid debut in Rotterdam and I did that, but 2:18 was a weak enough standard, I'm not surprised it's gone to 2:17," he said.
"I was aiming for 2:15 and went through halfway bang on target in 67.30, but the second half of the race was new territory for me and I slowed up.
"Breaking 2:18 was solid but I know it doesn't mean anything really at this stage. An awful lot will happen in the next year and a half and I know I'll have to go lower.
"The one thing that seems strange is that our qualifying standard for Worlds this summer are a lot harder; you'd imagine it should be harder to make the Olympics," he added.
AAI says this is because they want to improve standards nationally and also create some equity between the marathon standard and that demanded of their middle-distance runners.
Only 18 Irish men have broken 2:15 and one of them is Mullingar's Martin Fagan who ran 2:14.06 in 2008. Since completing a two-year doping ban in December 2013, he is back on the roads and is racing in the Zurich marathon on Sunday.
At home, the GloHealth National Road Relay Championships will take place in Raheny where Sligo (men) and Leevale (women) will be defending their titles. Ennis' men and Letterkenny's women are tipped to challenge strongly and racing starts at 2pm.