Thursday 22 February 2018

Athletics: Britton sets sights on Euro double tilt

Fionnuala Britton. Photo: Sportsfile
Fionnuala Britton. Photo: Sportsfile
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Fionnuala Britton is set to double up at the European Championships in Helsinki later this month.

The former European steeplechase champion has been encouraged by coach Chris Jones to concentrate solely on the flat this summer and she has already shown brilliant form over both the 5,000 and 10,000m.

With both races being run as straight finals and a full 48 hours rest in between them, Jones is confident the Kilcoole star can meet the schedule.

It looks likely that the 10,000m will be her main focus and that is no surprise, given the excellent time she produced on her 10,000m track debut in April.

Britton's 31:29.22 in Palo Alto (California) was the fourth fastest by an Irishwoman and leaves her ranked 11th in the world this year. Only one European -- Portugal's Sara Moreira (31:23.51) -- has run faster.

Despite the proximity of the Olympic Games, many of Ireland's other top athletes also intend going to Helsinki, especially the sprinters, to replicate the sort of race schedules they will be expecting in London. With June 17 the selection deadline for the championships, which run from June 27 to July 1, injury-hit David Gillick (calf) and Ciaran O'Lionaird (Achilles tendon) are unlikely to make it.

Athletics Ireland brought both men home from their respective British and US training bases recently for treatment on their injuries and, while they have since returned to training, they face a race against time to make the Olympics -- particularly Gillick, who hasn't yet qualified.

Britton has no such problems, having also run the sixth fastest 5000m time by an Irishwoman (15:15.69) this year and the eighth fastest Irish 3,000m (8:55.01).

memories

Her attempt to double up in Helsinki will undoubtedly evoke great memories of Sonia O'Sullivan.

Several youngsters who followed the Cobh great's path by taking the US college route have qualified for the prestigious NCAA finals, which are currently taking place at Des Moines, Iowa.

Ireland's NCAA finalists are Charlotte Ffrench-O'Carroll (5,000m, Providence College/DSD), Mairead Murphy (heptathlon, Kansas State/Ferrybank), David Rooney (5,000m, McNeese State/Raheny), Tomas Cotter (steeplechase, Wichita State/Dunleer), Holly Knight (10,000m, Louisville/Finn Valley) and Conor McCullough (Hammer, Princeton/Crusaders).

Several of the next generation to follow them showcased their talents at last weekend's Irish Schools Championships.

Hurdler Sarah Lavin is going to Princeton next year, while Amy O'Donoghue is off to Arkansas and Conor Dooney will start in Yale.

Meanwhile, Usain Bolt eased to another 100m victory at last night's Diamond League meeting in Oslo.

The Jamaican, with typical showmanship, had earlier arrived at the stadium in a faux-vintage dragster with sparks flying out of the back, and he did not disappoint on the track.

The flying Bolt finished in a time of 9.79 seconds to edge out Asafa Powell, who recorded a season's best time of 9.85.

Milcah Chemos won the women's steeplechase in a blistering time of 9:07.15, the fourth fastest time in history, but Britain's Eilish McColgan could be happy with her ninth place, finishing in a new personal best of 9:38.45.

Welshman Gareth Warburton stormed to victory in the 800m in one minute 44.98 seconds, a Welsh record and inside the Olympic 'A' standard.

Irish Independent

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