Thursday 23 May 2019

'There’s absolutely no reason people would want to emigrate to Turkey' - Furious Fionnuala McCormack blasts 'country hoppers'

Fionnuala McCormack of Ireland after finishing fourth in the Women's 10000m final on day one of the 23rd European Athletics Championships
Fionnuala McCormack of Ireland after finishing fourth in the Women's 10000m final on day one of the 23rd European Athletics Championships

Sean McGoldrick and Cathal Dennehy

Furious Fionnuala McCormack vented her anger at "country hoppers" after she narrowly missed out on a medal in the 10,000m at the European athletic championships.

The Rio bound Wicklow athlete was fourth in the event in Amsterdam, four years after finishing in the same position in the race at the same championships in Helsinki.

The race was won by Turkey’s Yasemin Can, formerly Vivian Jemutai of Kenya, who transferred allegiance last year and duly routed the field to win in 31:12.86. McCormack finished fourth in 31:30.74, and lashed out at the lax rules which allow athletes to switch nationality.

"It's more than frustrating at this stage, I am kind of sick of it really," said McCormack. 

When asked what her feelings were that the winner was not European, McCormack added: "There doesn't seem to be anything that can be done about it. People have taken such a soft approach.

“It’s a joke really. I am not just saying this because I came fourth, it's the same in every sport and I don't think people should be able to just hop countries just because they feel like it. There’s absolutely no reason - and I don't mean to be bad to people in Turkey - but there is not really any reason people would want to emigrate to Turkey at this point in time. It’s a dangerous country to be living in, so why would people feel like they want to represent them, I have no idea and I don't think it should be allowed.

“Once you’ve represented one country past a certain age, that should be your country for life."

McCormack has finished fourth three times at the European Cross-Country, and this was her second time finishing just outside the medals at this event, which left her understandably frustrated despite having run the second fastest time of her career. “It’s the exact same every f****** time,” she said. “There’s no point getting close to a PB and not getting a medal. I’m sick of it really.”

McCormack also spoke out against the ‘I run clean’ bibs which athletes are being forced to wear at the Championships, something she feels has no effect on eradicating the doping problem.

“It’s a complete joke. I’ve said it to people at the top and they’ve basically just said it’s not something you have a choice in, just go and do it as it makes [the sport] look good to the rest of the public. The athletes are basically pawns in the whole thing.”

McCormack (formally Britton) chased bronze medallist Karoline Grovdal of Norway all the way home, finishing in a time of 31:30.74, just over a second outside her personal best and  knocking more than half a minute off her fastest run this year. 

At the 2012 championships she finished fourth in 32:05.54.

So on the night that Olive Loughnane finally received the gold medal she was awarded after the winner of the 20km walk at the 2009 World championships Olga Kaniskina from Russia was disqualified for a doping offence, McCormack came away disappointed.

However, her performance represents a timely boost both to her personally and to the Irish team in general ahead of next month’s Olympic Games in Rio.

McCormack has qualified to run in both the 10,000m and the marathon in Rio – the odds are that she will compete in the latter event.

Even though Ireland’s has qualified a record number of athletes for Rio the overall form of team members has been very patchy with two of the country’s brightest prospects, 800m runner Mark English and hurdler Thomas Barr missing significant chucks of the season due to injury.

Both made winning returns at the National Championships. While English opted not to travel to Amsterdam Barr made the trip and received a huge boost today when he comfortably won his heat in the 400m hurdles and qualified for the semi-final.

Running a seasonal best of 50.17 seconds, the 23 year old Ferrybank athlete was the second fastest qualifier for the semi-finals.

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