Wednesday 22 May 2019

Fionnuala Britton focusing on her Olympic marathon bid

Ireland's Fionnuala Britton has made the top 16 at World Cross Country three times
Ireland's Fionnuala Britton has made the top 16 at World Cross Country three times

Cliona Foley

It only takes place every two years now but Fionnuala Britton has still decided to skip the World Cross-Country Championships.

The two-time European champion has proven herself to be one of the few Europeans able to hold her own with the African athletes who are now dominating the event.

The location - Guiyang, China on March 28 - and Britton's desire to concentrate on getting the qualification for the marathon for the Rio Olympics this season, were both factors in her decision.

The Irish women's team, led by Britton (6th) to European team bronze in Bulgaria last month, also qualified to travel under Athletics Ireland's selection criteria (top four teams at Europeans).

But AAI has decided not to send the team and no Irish athletes will contest the event as none of Ireland's top men met the individual qualifying standard of European 'top 20' that had been set.

Of the women's team, the next two highest scorers at the Europeans - Dunboyne's Sara Treacy and Leevale's Michelle Finn - are both steeplechasers and AAI regards developing their track skills as more of a priority.

Britton has made the top 16 at World Cross Country three times.

She finished 14th in Mombasa in 2007 and was the third non-African in 2011 when America's Shalane Flanagan took bronze and Britain's Charlotte Purdue (14th) was the only European ahead of her.

Two years ago she was 14th in Poland, where Morocco's Salima Alami and America's Neely Spence (12th and 13th) were the only non-Africans ahead of her.

But after weighing up her options Britton has decided to skip it this year and will be concentrating on road-racing in the coming months.

For most of Ireland's elite seniors the attention now turns to the indoor season and an Irish men's team (Mark English, Brian Gregan, Ciaran O'Lionaird and John Travers) is competing in the distance medley at the New Balance Indoor Games in New York tomorrow week.

The AAI Games, in Athlone IT's international arena, on Sunday week will be the first major event of the domestic indoor season but the national junior and U-23 indoors take place in AIT tomorrow.

The final step in developing another high-class indoor track is taking place in Abbotstown today, when the Sports Campus Authority will sign the building contract for the new National Indoor Arena.

The new multi-sport facility, which will be completed in November 2016, will include a full 200-metre indoor track, which, like Glasgow's Emirates Arena, will be on hydraulics so it can disappear into the floor to facilitate other sports.

Work on a new, separate 130-metre indoor strip at the adjacent Institute of Sport has already started and is expected to be ready by next September.

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