Relaxed Barr 'quietly confident' of breaking Irish hurdle final duck
For all the feats packed into his career, an achievement that has so far eluded Thomas Barr is one he finds himself on the brink of today.
No Irishman has ever made a world final in the 400m hurdles, but then again Ireland has never had a long hurdler quite like Thomas Barr since the World Championships began back in 1983.
In Doha, Qatar last night, Barr got this year's edition off to a brilliant start, clocking 49.41secs to finish second in his heat behind world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway (49.27).
"I felt good, nice and relaxed," said Barr. "I was in contention down the home straight so I was actually able to ease off a bit."
It marks the third straight time Barr has qualified for the world semi-final and he has high hopes of finally qualifying for a world final today. Four years ago in Beijing he was edged out after finishing fourth in his semi-final, and two years ago in London her contracted gastroenteritis after his heat and was unable to line up the following day.
He knows something substantially swifter will be needed. "Tomorrow will sort the men from the boys. I'm going to have to run it like a final to get into the final. Everyone was on cruise control today but they're going to be dropping a couple of gears. I'm quietly confident."
With temperatures and humidity through the roof, Barr sought refuge from the heat by warming up in the air-conditioned arena at the nearby Aspire Academy, only venturing to the outdoor track to do some hurdles. "I was instantly covered in sweat," he said.
Barr's assignment today is a highly difficult one, drawn outside two of the medal favourites in USA's Rai Benjamin and Qatar's Abderrahman Samba, but even if he fails to grab a top-two finish there is a chance he will nail one of the two qualifier spots for Monday's final.
Michelle Finn was the only other Irish competitor on day one, the 29-year-old finishing ninth in her 3,000m steeplechase heat in 9mins 47.44secs. Finn was obstructed at the first barrier and came to a stop, which cost the Leevale athlete a few seconds, and after the race Irish team management lodged an appeal to have her re-instated in the final, which was unsuccessful.
"You don't get an asterisk next to your name because something happened, your result is your result so I was trying to tell myself to catch back up without using too much energy," said Finn.
Irish in action (all times Irish): Mark English, men's 800m heats: 3:36pm; Thomas Barr, men's 400m hurdles semi-finals: 4:25pm; Brendan Boyce, men's 50km race walk: 9:30pm.