Tuesday 12 December 2017

O'Lionaird seals bronze as Britton cruises into final

Ciaran O'Lionaird
Ciaran O'Lionaird


An exceptional performance by Ciaran O'Lionaird saw him win a bronze medal in the 3,000m final at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg yesterday.

The 24-year-old from Cork executed a superb race looking comfortable all the way through, crossing the line in a personal best 7:50.40. Earlier in the evening there was drama in the men's 400m semi-final as medal hopeful Brian Gregan was clipped from behind, injured and subsequently dropped out. The Tallaght man had to get nine stitches after a collision with a competitor early in the race.

But there was joy for Fionnuala Britton and Ciara Everard as they both earned final spots in their events – Amy Foster also had a good day at the office, finishing fifth in the 60m and progressing to today's semi-final.

All in all O'Lionaird was the star of team Ireland with his bronze medal. He ran a very tactical race, remaining in and around the middle of the pack until the final three laps.

He then moved up the field and into an attacking position, with just one to go he was in second place behind the winner Hayle Ibrahimov. On the home straight O'Lionaird looked close to securing the silver medal. However, it wasn't to be and Spain's Juan Carlos Higuera stole up from behind to pip him for second place with just metres to go.

It was an impressive few days for Oregan-based O'Lionaird – he ran a perfect heat on Friday winning in 7:50.55 and will be confident heading into the outdoor season.

"It was my first competition in the 3,000m and I really wanted to win," he said. "But these guys were too good. My goal for Moscow [at the World Championships in August] is to get to the final and set a new personal best."

O'Lionaird will be disappointed for his room-mate Brian Gregan, who was agonisingly knocked off the track yesterday in the 400m semi-final and disqualified as a result. His heat win of 46.97 put him in lane six for the semi-final – he was in third place at the bell but as he crossed into the straight he tangled with the Ukrainian athlete Volodymyr Burakov, who was behind him, and fell heavily clutching his ankle in agony.

"He didn't just trip me, he stood on me," said Gregan. "I didn't do anything wrong, it wasn't may fault whatsoever, but then these things happen indoors. I'll just have to deal with it, move on to outdoors."

Gregan had the fastest European time going into the race and was expected to win his first senior medal at a major championship.

In the morning session it was a case of job done for Britton – she finished third in her 3,000m heat in a time of 9:03.30. The Wicklow athlete looked comfortable throughout the race, sitting at the back of the pack for most of the first 1,000 metres she allowed Sweden's Charlotta Fougberg do most of the work.

Sara Moreira of Portugal, one of the favourites, took control of the pace soon after but Britton never panicked, finishing confidently alongside Britain's Lauren Howarth to secure a spot in the final. Britton's main focus at the moment is the World Cross Country Championships coming up at the end of the month but getting a medal in today's final is still on the agenda.

"I didn't train specifically for this. Now that I'm in the final, of course I'm going to give it a real go. I've to go away now and think about it, because really, I had to focus on the heat first," she said.

"It's a short enough race, I probably will have to run a personal best, but no one has really run that fast this year. You have to believe you can win a medal. But then all 12 girls in the final will be thinking the same."

Amy Foster of the City of Lisburn AC will also run again today. She qualified for the semi-final of the 60m yesterday after finishing a commendable fifth in the heats equalling her personal best of 7.33 in the process.

"I want to put a good race together for the semi and I want to run a personal best," said Foster. "The track feels fast, I don't think it's as fast as Athlone, but I'm being biased to Athlone."

Kilkenny's Ciara Everard secured her place in today's 800m final with a determined run of 2:03.40 in yesterday's semi-final and a third place finish.

Rose-Anne Galligan of Newbridge was in action in the first of the 800m semi-finals. However, she failed to earn one of the top three spots needed to progress to the final. She finished fifth with a personal best of 2:02.84.

Irish Independent

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