Saturday 15 December 2018

Barr 'gutted' as illness brings Worlds bid to premature end

Barr: “I’m gutted to have to withdraw.” Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Barr: “I’m gutted to have to withdraw.” Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

It's not how he expected it to end, that's for sure. On Sunday night Thomas Barr went to bed with his mind fixated on a world semi-final, but just hours later he knew his chance had been flushed away.

The 25-year-old Waterford man felt unwell earlier in the evening, but by the time he reached the wee hours he was doubled over in pain in his hotel room in central London, a vicious bout of gastroenteritis hitting his body for six.

By yesterday morning the game was up, Barr sending out the message via his agent that he could play no part in proceedings, his world championships brought to a premature end.

In truth, it likely would have ended last night anyway, but to be deprived of the chance was a hard pill to hold down for last year's Olympic finalist.

"I'm gutted to have to withdraw," said Barr. "I wasn't feeling great yesterday evening and later in the night I was hit with a bout of gastroenteritis. My whole year has been focused on the World Championships. The support was just brilliant and to not be able to go out and compete for Ireland today is beyond disappointing."

The signs were there on Sunday, when Barr ran well below his best in the heats of the men's 400m hurdles, coming off the last bend in contention but unable to summon his usual strong finish.

He came across the line in 49.79 to place fifth, but was upgraded to fourth and an automatic qualification spot after the disqualification of Kyron McMaster for a lane infringement.

Afterwards he struck an upbeat tone that he would reappear a better athlete in the semi-final, but in the end he never got that chance. Yesterday afternoon local organisers admitted his was one of a number of cases of gastroenteritis reported at the athletes' hotel, so if there is any solace to be gleaned it was that he wasn't alone.

His absence means a scant representation for Ireland for the rest of the week, with Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner next up in the heats of the women's 800m on Thursday.

It's highly unlikely she'll advance to the semi-finals, but hopes remain high that Rob Heffernan, Brendan Boyce and Alex Wright can manage some heroics in the race walks on Sunday. They are currently finalising preparations in Fota Island in Cork and will fly to London on Thursday.

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