Tuesday 12 December 2017

Athletics: O'Rourke eyes Continental glory to cap bumper year

O'Rourke representing Europe
O'Rourke representing Europe
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

DERVAL O'ROURKE hopes to end her medal-winning season with one final high when she represents Europe in the Continental Cup in Split on Sunday.

Every four years the 'best of the best' are selected to represent their continents and she is only the fifth Irish athlete, and only the second woman, to make the European team.

Both Sonia O'Sullivan (Johannesburg 1998) and Eamonn Coghlan (Rome 1981) are former 5,000m winners in this event, while John Doherty was a 5,000m runner-up in Barcelona in 1989 and John Treacy was seventh in the 10,000m in Montreal in 1979.

O'Rourke's silver medal in Barcelona automatically earned the Leevale star her 100m hurdles spot alongside European team-mate Turkey's Yanit Nevin, who pipped her for gold in Spain.

Unlike the European Championships, there is also a prize-fund -- from $30,00 to $10,000 for a top-three placing and down to $1,000 for eighth -- so it also offers O'Rourke a chance of a decent payday to wrap up her excellent summer.

With the 'Americas' team selected on rankings by July 31, Canada's world leader Priscilla Lopes Schliep, who has dominated the recent Diamond League meets, is not involved, which helps to open up the field.

But Lolo Jones (USA) and Perdita Felicien (Canada) have both run under 12.6 seconds this summer and so has Australia's Sally Pearson (12.57).

Nevin and O'Rourke both ran national records of 12.63 and 12.65 in the European final so the Irish star goes into it ranked only fifth-fastest and it remains to be seen if her legendary spirit can help to defy her ranking in what is pretty close to a 'championship' race.

O'Rourke has raced three times since Barcelona but has broken 13 seconds only once -- in Brussels last week. She followed that with a sixth place (13.18) in Zagreb on Wednesday night, in a race won by Jones in 12.87.

After Split, the Cork star will take a complete break for three weeks before resuming training, with the European Indoor Championships in Paris next March already in her ultra-competitive sights.

Irish Independent

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