Saturday 25 January 2020

Barr needs to be raised to unprecedented level

Thomas Barr wants to do the Irish vest justice in today’s semi-final. Photo by Ian MacNicol/Sportsfile
Thomas Barr wants to do the Irish vest justice in today’s semi-final. Photo by Ian MacNicol/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

He managed it last year, reaching down into his box of tricks and conjuring up a performance out of nowhere, and if Thomas Barr is to book his place in the world final tonight he will again have to produce something approaching sorcery.

All evidence suggests he shouldn't, but Barr has never been one to listen to such things. The 25-year-old Waterford man squeezed through qualification in the London Stadium yesterday, finishing fourth in his heat in 49.79, a race won by TJ Holmes of the US in 49.35.

Barr had initially crossed the line fifth, outside the automatic qualification spots, but despair soon turned to relief after realising race favourite Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands was disqualified for a lane infringement, upgrading him to fourth.

"I'm really disappointed with that even though I'm getting through on a disqualification," said Barr. "At least I've given myself another bite of the cherry."

In the first half of yesterday's race all appeared normal, Barr in contention and close enough to strike if he could unleash his trademark finish. However, as he approached the fifth hurdle he knew something was up.

"I had to reach into that hurdle and then I was far away from six," he said. "I changed down and didn't get my optimal stride pattern coming home so I was on my right leg instead of left. That messed things up a little bit. It sort of fell apart a bit in the latter part of that race but the job is done."

Barr had been short of form in recent weeks after a minor hamstring tear scuppered his preparations, and the effect of missed training was there to see in his inability to kick past competitors over the final two barriers. However, he was mature enough to see the positives in just making it to London.

"It could be worse," said Barr. "I thought I might be in really bad shape coming but I'm delighted to be here representing Ireland. I hope I'll be able to do the vest a bit more justice tomorrow."

His assignment looks a tough one. Barr is drawn in lane nine in the first of three semi-finals, and with only the top two (and two fastest overall times) set to advance to Wednesday's final, he will likely need to hack more than a second off yesterday's time to go through.

"I always feel a little lethargic coming into and out of heats, so hopefully there's more there," he said. "I was going in green today because I had it planned out in my head but it didn't work out that way. Tomorrow I'll go in with a renewed focus. I know where I can make up time."

The odds may be strongly against him, but if he needs reminding of a time he defied them, he only has to think back 12 months to Rio.

"That's what I love about championships and hate about championships," he said. "Anything can happen."

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Today: Thomas Barr, men's 400m semi-final, 8:20pm

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