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Saturday 16 December 2017

O'Lionaird, Gregan lead medal hopes

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

FEW who witnessed it can forget Ciaran O'Lionaird's very public meltdown last summer when, with his "Achilles screaming" after his Olympic 1,500m heat, he declared it was time to "re-evaluate and find something else to do with my life".

Next day he was back madly in love with running again, declaring that Rio 2016 was firmly back on his agenda.

Any wonder his nickname is 'Mad Len', though that's a bit of a misnomer as the 24-year-old from Macroom, with a masters degree from Florida State, is a bright lad who just tends to wear his heart not so much on his sleeve as on his forehead.

He made a major breakthrough when finishing 10th in the World Championships in 2010 but persistent Achilles problems destroyed his Olympic year.

Yet his 3:52.10 in last month's Wannamaker Mile proved the talented Corkman, who is based with one of Nike's high-profile training groups in Oregon, is back to his best.

O'Lionaird's decision to opt for the 3,000m at the European Indoors in Gothenburg was surprising, but he should still be in with a medal shout.

Brian Gregan has been the fastest man in Europe over 400m this year so should also have no trouble in today's heats.

UCD's Ciara Everard, who is coached by former European Indoor medallist James Nolan, makes her senior debut in the 800m.

Newbridge's Rose-Anne Galligan has long been tipped to be the first Irishwoman to break two minutes and is coming back to form after injuries, but Everard ran 2:02.54 this year and looks likelier to make her mark in heats.

Pole vaulter Tori Pena, another adopted under the 'granny rule', has a good chance of getting through the qualifiers.

Irish Independent

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