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McMahon hopes to earn Rio spot


Irish 400m hurdler Christine McMahon. Pic: Sportsfile

Irish 400m hurdler Christine McMahon. Pic: Sportsfile

Irish 400m hurdler Christine McMahon. Pic: Sportsfile

After qualifying for the European Championships, 400m hurdler Christine McMahon is now gunning for the Rio 16 mark - and it could come at this weekend's Glo Health National Track and Field Championships in Santry.

For the past few weeks, McMahon has been on fire, chipping away at her personal best times and back to the kind of form that saw her qualify for both the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships two years ago.

Not only has she improved her time for the 400m hurdles to 56.42 secs, a string of sub- 55 second times for the 400m flat means that she has become a mainstay of the Irish 4x400m relay squad currently ranked fourth in Europe.

"I feel I'm getting the reward now for two years of work. Last year, I was training hard but I wasn't getting the rewards in races and missed the World University qualification.

"It was the second last year of my dentistry studies and it was a big year. Although this was my final year, it wasn't quite so demanding. Now I have my exams done and can concentrate on my training."

Her coach is Ian McNeely, husband of world master 800m champion Kelly.

"He ran the 400m hurdles as a junior and he's still very fit. He runs with me and two younger guys Craig Newell and Ryan Keenan. There's always one of them ahead of me to chase in training, which is perfect."

As a youngster, McMahon, who ran cross-country and clocked times of two mins 14 secs for 800m and under-55 seconds for 400m, would tag along when her older sister Colleen was practising the hurdles.

"I'd be going over the hurdles with her and I loved it. I started winning races and I still hold the Irish schools 300m hurdles record, I'm delighted to say!"

Her strength came from ten years of Irish dancing. "Yes I did it all - the wigs, the frocks, the fake tan, the lot. But around the age of 13, when I got more serious about athletics, I gave it up."

She made her international debut in 2009 when she competed at the European Youth Olympics and followed that up by making the Irish team for the World Juniors a year later.

In her breakthrough year of 2014, she qualified for the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles at the European Championships after running 57.16 secs in the heats. Her best time of the year was an early season 56.97 secs at Nivelles.

Her goal now is the Olympic qualifying mark of 56.20 seconds.

"If I don't make it this weekend, I'll be going for it next Wednesday June 29 in Helsinki."