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Athletics: Colvert going the distance to make Olympic dream a reality

JUST how far Irish athletes are prepared to go to qualify for London 2012 was demonstrated by rising Irish sprinter Steven Colvert (21) last weekend.

The leggy 6ft 5ins Crusaders man ran an Irish U-23 record (20:57) in Slovenia last Thursday, just two hundredths of a second off the Olympic 200m 'A' standard (20:55).

And the next morning Paul Hession and himself rose at 2.0 to travel by car to Croatia and then by air from Zagreb to Copenhagen.

On landing they caught another flight to Stockholm and then hopped on a train to go 400km north for Sunday's Windsprint meeting in Sundsvall.

Four countries and 18 hours later they reached their destination. Yet that's not unusual for Irish athletes looking for decent races.

"I still ran my second fastest time ever (20:59), so it was definitely worth the trip," Colvert said.

The Mullingar sprinter's rapid rise is truly extraordinary. Five years ago he was a self-confessed couch potato who only took to a track once a year to get a day off school, yet last summer he was sixth in the European U-23 final, running 20:76 in the heats.

"I was very quiet in school, like a shrew. My mother used to say the only thing that moved were my thumbs," Colvert admitted of his PlayStation youth. "I knew I could run fast from things like schools' sports days, but I just wasn't interested."

Hugo Leeney at UCD first awoke his nascent athletics talent and Colvert's subsequent move to DCU, where he studies law, has helped knock two tenths off his 100m (10:35) and 200m bests this year.

"I wasn't really committing to the weights before," he admitted. "I was doing them unsupervised, only half doing them, but that has changed."

Training alongside Hession, back from his Scottish base this season, has also been a factor. Colvert is no longer the fastest man in John Coughlan's training group in Santry, but at least now he has the perfect role model. He's still a long way off Hession's Irish record of 20:30, but has consistently been faster than him this year.

Yet, unlike 'Hesh', he still hasn't qualified for London and is now hoping to get the standard at the European Championships, which start in Helsinki next Wednesday, though he will still have opportunities like Liege (July 5), Brussels (July 6) and the Irish Championships (July 7/8) before the July 8 deadline.

"The racing in Helsinki should be quick, so, hopefully, I'll get it there," he said referring to a European field that includes Holland's Churandy Martina (already sub-20), French superstar Christophe Lemaitre and Belgium's Jonathan Borlee, who've both run 20.31 this season.

Irish Independent