No excuses from gutsy O'Rourke
HER bottle didn't desert her and neither did Derval O'Rourke's candour after she finished fourth in the final of the 60m hurdles at the European Indoor Championships in Paris last night.
It's a measure of the standard and expectations that O'Rourke has created that 'just fourth?' will be the common reaction to this result; she so rarely fails to medal in a final.
But a pre-championship groin problem meant that yesterday's three-round medal dash was her first time to race in four weeks.
So, to finish just outside the medals in a season-best time of 7.96 wasn't bad for someone who was only '50-50' about even being able to take part just two weeks ago.
It is testament to O'Rourke's own class and determination that she had still hoped to medal, despite running in lane eight, which she refused to use as an excuse.
She was typically honest and phlegmatic afterwards. "It's still a major championship and I came fourth, so I can't kick myself, the girls (who won medals) all ran faster than my personal best (7.84 seconds)," O'Rourke pointed out.
She also revealed just how close she had come to having to pull out.
"The weekend of the 'Nationals' (two weeks ago) it was 50-50," she admitted. "I didn't run over hurdles until last Sunday and Tuesday.
"Sunday was the first test. If I couldn't get over hurdles last Sunday -- full height hurdles at full speed -- then I wouldn't have come, but I could, so I had to come and tough it out.
"If this happened before the Olympics next year, I'd have to do it!"
That tenacity ensures last night's rare medal miss will only be used as extra motivation over the next two summers.
"This is my third competition (of the season) and to run so great is unprecedented for me.
"This very much refocusses me," O'Rourke stressed.
"As soon as I cleared the line and knew it was between the (other) three girls I felt like getting ready for outdoors!"
This was a final that simply came too early for the 2006 World indoor champion and twice European silver medallist (outdoors) after a scan detected a tiny tear in her groin four weeks ago.
She still toughed it out like no other Irish athlete can in championship running, nabbing an automatic qualifying spot when runner-up, behind Germany's eventual champion Carolin Nytra, in 8.07 seconds in the early morning opening heat.
The Cork star lined up beside the German -- who took bronze behind her in Barcelona last summer -- again in the semi-finals where she was third, in a blanket finish, behind Nytra (7.94) and Belarus' Alina Talia (7.95) in a season-best 7.98 seconds.
"I'm in the final now and I'm going to do nothing, but enjoy it and run like hell!" she quipped, as she skipped through the mixed zone afterwards.
But, with six of the finalists running sub-eight in the semis for the first time since 1988, it was already clear that the final's pace was going to be blistering.
Most ominous was Tiffany Ofili, an American with dual citizenship, who only got British eligibility six months ago and was the 2009 US collegiate champion.
She emerged as a real contender by winning the second semi-final in a new British record of 7.89 ahead of fancied Norwegian Christina Vukicevic (7.93).
The pace in the final turned out to be just as white-hot as forecasted, and when the smoke cleared both Ofili and Nytra were given 7.80, the fastest time in Europe this season.
But the German got gold on the dip and Vukicevic's tearful delight at taking bronze in a new Norwegian record of 7.83 showed just how competitive it had been.
Not for the first time, it took two national records to beat O'Rourke, who noted that 7.96 last night only put her fourth, whereas she won bronze in Turin two years ago running slightly slower (7.97).
"That's the thing in my event, it never stops, it's never easy!" she said.
"But I think I'm tough and I'm not sure how many people would have come out under these conditions and run.
"That's not an excuse, the girls ran better than my PB, but I still think I did very well."
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