Barr emulates Sonia as he ends 24-year wait for gold
Thomas Barr became Ireland's latest world champion when he won the 400m hurdles at the World Student Games in Gwangju in glorious style yesterday.
With a personal best almost a second faster than anyone in the field, Barr was firm favourite, but it proved tougher than expected.
Only after the final hurdle did the Waterford man use his trademark finishing speed to race away for victory, driven on by the cheers of a large group of Irish supporters.
His time of 48.89 seconds was his second fastest. Algeria's Abdelma Lahoulou was second in 48. 99 seconds.
It was a first major championships gold for Barr and augurs well for the World Championships in Beijing later this summer.
His gold medal was a first for Ireland at the World Student Games since 1991 when Sonia O'Sullivan and Niall Bruton made it an Irish 1500m double.
It was also a first World Student Games medal for Ireland since 2007 when Eileen O'Keeffe was second in the women's hammer.
"I'm delighted with the medal, this is a massive confidence boost and I couldn't have done it without the support at home," he said.
"It's really a huge deal to get this medal and to be listed in the same bracket as those names.
"I didn't expect it to be as tough as it was, he (Lahoulou) put it right up to me.
"I knew I had to keep myself in check and it was just focusing on staying calm. I just edged ahead over the last hurdles and I was keeping my eye on the other two guys right until the line.
"This year just goes from strength to strength, I'm glad that I'm getting out and delivering on what people expect of me - I came in here as favourite and I walk away with gold."
After his victory, the stadium rang out to the sound of "Ole Ole Ole" as Barr draped himself in the tricolour.
The University of Limerick graduate was thoroughly enjoying his moment after the disappointment of last year's European Championships where he failed to make the final and admits he underperformed.
In the women's 800m race that followed, Ciara Everard finished sixth in a respectable time of 2:02.46 in an outstanding race.
In the 1500m, John Travers ran his heart out in memory of his late father Stephen, who had died a day earlier after a long battle with illness. Travers finished a brave ninth in 3:42.63.
Kevin Batt qualified for tomorrow's 5,000m final (10.20 Irish time) after finishing fifth in his heat in 14:19.11.
At the European U-23 Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, more Irish medals look likely with both Mark English and Karl Griffin coming safely through the men's 800m heats, and Marcus Lawler winning his 200m heat.
Running in the third of four heats, Griffin finished a comfortable second in 1:49.54.
Next up was English in the fourth and final heat. In a tactical race, English finished joint second in 1:52.91.
Lawler won his 200m heat in an untroubled 20.94. The Carlow man ran an excellent bend and raced away for an easy win.
"One race at a time," was his calm response ahead of this afternoon's semi-final.
There was disappointment for Sarah Lavin, who was just one hundredth of a second off qualifying for the semi-finals of the 100m hurdles. She finished fifth in her heat in 13.87 secs.