Kiely twins keep medals flowing
AUGUST may be a wicked month, but July is proving to be a remarkably successful one for the young Irish athletes who took three more medals -- one gold and two bronze -- at the European Youth Olympics in Trabzon yesterday.
Waterford twins Ben and Megan Kiely (Ferrybank AC) and Limerick sprint hurdler Sarah Lavin (Emerald AC) were the latest teen heroes.
Ben Kiely (16) overtook Britain's fancied Jacob Paul over the final barrier to take gold in the 400m hurdles in an Irish youth record time of 52.69 that knocked a full second off his personal best.
Ten minutes later, his twin, Megan, also ran a lifetime best of 1:00.44 in the equivalent girls' final, where silver just escaped her by two hundredths of a second. And Lavin took bronze in the 100m hurdles in another lifetime best of 13.62, just a hundredth off silver.
Ferrybank's Ciara Giles-Doran also ran a personal best (24.46) to reach today's 200m final and then joined Kiely, Lavin and Grainne Moynihan to qualify second fastest (in 47.36) for today's 4x100m final.
The boys 4x100m relay team set an Irish record of 42.67, but, like javelin thrower Matthew Martin, who threw a 62.72m personal best, they did not make their final.
However, with Karl Griffin (800m) and Marcus Lawler (200m) already through to today's finals, hopes are high for more medals.
Donegal's Ruari Finnegan (1500m gold) and DSD's Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (1500m silver) have already made the podium in Turkey.
Add these medals to those won recently by race walker Kate Veale (gold at the World Youths), Brian Gregan (400m silver at Euro U-23s) and Ciara Mageean (1500m silver at the Euro Juniors) and it is clear that Athletics Ireland's (AAI) underage structures are working.
One of Ireland's top underage experts last night predicted that the medal bonanza is not over yet. "We have a group of really outstanding young athletes at present and I really believe there are more medals to come," said Jacqui Freyne.
Freyne, who was one of the first batch of full-time regional development officers (RDOs), is now AAI's director of coaching and, a year ago, was also given the additional role of high performance manager for the juniors (U-20) and youths (U-18).
"Ever since our organisation went professional five years ago, this has been threatening to happen," she said. "We have a really good youth and junior development programme now which is supporting a group of talented young athletes.
"We took a particularly large group of them to Portugal earlier this year on an educational camp."
"Clubs are doing a great job too in upskilling their coaches and holding onto their young athletes and the regional development squads (U-14 upwards) have also helped hugely.
"Apart from the coaching, these athletes are all great friends, plus there's a certain amount of friendly rivalry there, which is good. The big job now will be to sustain this. We have to bring these successfully through to senior level."
•Usain Bolt returns to the scene of two rare defeats in the 100m when he runs at the DN Galan meet in Stockholm today, hoping a switch to his favoured 200m will put him back to winning ways.
The Jamaican star headlines the field at the Diamond League event, his last scheduled race before the World Championships next month in South Korea.
"You can always expect the best from me," he said yesterday. "I always go out and compete at my best and always do extremely well over 200m, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm not really worried about this one."