Tuesday 19 March 2019

Athletics: OCI U-turn sends the B-specials to Beijing

Thomas Chamney celebrates after winning the Men's 800m final event at the AAI National Track &
Field Championships in Santry. Below Robert Heffernan celebrates his Irish record in the 10,000m
Thomas Chamney celebrates after winning the Men's 800m final event at the AAI National Track & Field Championships in Santry. Below Robert Heffernan celebrates his Irish record in the 10,000m

Cliona Foley

IN A DRAMATIC U-turn from their previously strict rules, the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) announced last night that the Irish team in Beijing will include an additional three athletes who have only got the B qualifying standard.

Three lucky runners - Clonmel 800m runner Thomas Chamney (Crusaders), Dublin 400m hurdler Michelle Carey (Dublin Striders) and Tullamore Harriers marathoner Pauline Curley -- discovered last night that they are going to Beijing, just three weeks before the official start of the Games.

The Olympic Council has previously applied a strict 'A standard' only rule to track and field, but after heavy negotiations in recent weeks, Athletics Ireland successfully canvassed for a softening of the rule.

The OCI included two B standard swimmers when they announced their official team of 51 athletes a week ago but they have a specific agreement with Swim Ireland to consider B standard athletes if their age and standard shows potential for future Games.

Last night's late call-ups are broadly spread in age and experience. Chamney is 24, Carey is 27 and Curley, who ran a personal best of 2:39.05 in the Rotterdam marathon last April, is 39.

Chamney missed the A standard (1:46.00) when he ran a season best 1:46.66 in Italy last week, but got a hint that something might happen when he got a call from Athletics Ireland late last week, advising him to run in yesterday's Woodies DIY National Senior T&F Championships.

He was in Belgium, hoping to run the A standard there, but returned home immediately and yesterday beat the defending champion David Campbell (St Coca's) to regain the 800m title.

"I was doing my laundry and ordering a pizza from a takeaway when I got the call, so I had to high-tail it home!" Chamney said."They said it would be in my interest if I came back and won today," he revealed.

Campbell actually has a faster B standard than Chamney (1:46.05) but it dates from last year and yesterday's victory established the Crusader star as the 'form' man at 800m.

Elsewhere five of Ireland's top Olympic prospects confirmed their good pre-Games form in Santry where Alistair Cragg (stomach upset) and David Gillick (knee niggle) pulled out as a precaution.

Paul Hession skipped his 200m speciality but still ran a championship best of 10.26 seconds to retain his 100m title.

Derval O'Rourke won her eighth sprint hurdles title in 13.04 and Olympic steeplechaser Roisin McGettigan looked very strong, holding off former 800m champion Kelly McNeice to win the 1,500metres in 4:17.91.

Kilkenny's Eileen O'Keeffe had another world-class 70 metre-plus series for her eighth hammer title in a row and another double with the discus. She threw over 72m three times in the hammer and won in 72.75m, only half a metre off her Irish record (73.21).

Record

Robbie Heffernan knocked 20 seconds off his Irish 10km walk record with 38.27 and Olive Loughnane also recorded a 5000m walk PB of 21:07.

After false-starting last year, Gordon Kennedy won the 400m from Brian Doyle to take Tullamore Harriers' first gold. Padraig Harrington's nephew Brian Gregan was third.

Peter Coghlan equalled TJ Kearns' record with his 10th sprint hurdles title. Ferrybank's Kelly Proper took gold in long jump and 200m and was fourth in the 100m, won by 19-year-old Amy Foster.

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