Tuesday 24 April 2018



Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

DERVAL O'ROURKE will line up alongside the best sprint hurdlers in the world in London on Saturday, before making a quick dash home to take part in the Woodies DIY National Track and Field Championships the next day.

"I've got a 6.20 flight back on Saturday evening, straight from the track to Gatwick Airport," revealed the two-time European silver medallist and former world indoor champion.

Any Irish athletes who want to take part in the World Championships in South Korea at the end of this month must take part in this weekend's national championships at Santry, but O'Rourke doesn't need to be forced.

"I love the nationals," she said at Morton Stadium yesterday. "I like having national titles. It's always great fun and it's never a meet I have an issue doing, especially as I'm on such good (grant) funding."

The Leevale star will be chasing a ninth Irish 100m hurdles title; the only athlete to beat her in the domestic championships is Susan Smith, who did so back in 2000.

But the Diamond League meet in Crystal Palace on Saturday will have far more significance ahead of the World Championships in Daegu.

Despite an injury-wracked season, O'Rourke finished fourth in the Worlds in Berlin in 2009 and has serious ambitions of making that final again to see if she can go even better.

Saturday's world-class competition in London includes Australia's in-form Sally Pearson (12.48 this season), top Americans Danielle Carruthers (12.53) and Virginia Crawford (12.73), and Britain's Tiffany Ofili-Porter (12.60).

O'Rourke is extremely happy with her training since she finished fourth at the European Indoors last March and feels it just hasn't translated into her race performances yet.

She is notorious for producing her best form only in championships, but one positive sign is that her season-best 12.84 (July 3 in Switzerland) is the fastest time she has ever run outside of a championship race.

O'Rourke will have just one more race before Daegu, either in Germany next Tuesday or in the all-hurdles meeting at Loughborough the following day.

She is heartened by the form of Ireland's underage hurdlers and singled out Ferrybank's Jessie Barr (fifth at 400m hurdles at the European U-23s) as one with huge potential.

She was also delighted to hear yesterday that her Leevale clubmate Ciaran O Lionaird got the 1500m 'A' qualifying standard for Daegu and the 2012 Olympics midweek with a new 3:34.46 PB.

A pacy race in Belgium helped the recent Michigan University graduate knock almost four seconds off his personal best -- he has, remarkably, run PBs at every distance from 1500m to 10,000m this year.

O Lionaird is set to take on Alistair Cragg at 5,000m this weekend, and European U-23 silver medallist Brian Gregan is also skipping the 400m in favour of the 200m to save himself for the World Student Games.

Gregan, with a 46.12 PB, weighed into the ongoing 'A' versus 'B' Olympic qualifying standard debate yesterday by pointing out just how stratospheric athletics' qualifying standards are.

"The 400m 'A' standard is 45.25, it's crazy," Gregan said. "Only 12 or 13 athletes worldwide have got it for Daegu, and only two of those are Europeans.

"Paul Hession hasn't got the 'A' standard yet and if someone of his calibre hasn't got it yet, that shows just how difficult it is.

"I think they are crazy not sending 'B' standards to the Olympics; you can't get that experience anywhere else. Hopefully, they (Olympic Council) might change their policy or else I'll have to run the 'A' standard," Gregan added, saying that Rio (2016) and beyond will be his peak Olympic years.

Irish Independent

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