Monday 28 May 2018

O'Rourke aims to end frustrations

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

THERE MUST definitely be something in the Cork water that produces such world-class and singularly competitive athletes.

The Rebels' canon of sporting excellence already includes legends like Sonia O'Sullivan and Roy Keane and two more will be carrying Irish athletics' hopes in South Korea over the next 24 hours.

Leevale's sprint hurdles queen Derval O'Rourke needs no introduction.

Her ultra-competitive streak and big-day focus, allied to her world-class technique in a difficult technical event, makes her an extraordinary talent.

Her knack of saving her best form annually for major championships -- her five fastest times have all been in major championship finals or semi-finals -- is significant.

It is why she has won one world gold (indoors) and two European silver medals since 2006 -- she also has a fourth-place finish in the World Championships (outdoors) to her credit.

O'Rourke's pre-championship form is usually irrelevant, which is just as well, as it certainly hasn't been eye-catching this summer.

"Everything has actually gone exactly how I've wanted it, so I'm a bit frustrated that I haven't been running as well in races as in training," she confessed.

Yet, encouragingly, her 12.84 in Switzerland in July was actually her sixth-fastest time ever and the fastest she has ever run outside of championship races.

She'll be hoping to reproduce that form in the heats early tomorrow morning (2.20am Irish time) to earn a shot at another two-race dash for glory on Saturday, when she reckons 12.70 (her Irish record is 12.65) will be needed to reach the final.

Paul Hession (Athenry) is also among those lining out early tomorrow (3.10). He goes in the heats of the 200m, where Usain Bolt will be seeking redemption.

Ireland's Joanne Cuddihy will be looking for the same in the 4x400 relay heats (4.10am).

The Irish 'breakthrough' story of the season races in the 1500m semi-finals today and, yes, Ciaran O'Lionaird is another Cork talent.

The Macroom runner (23), with the old-school, mullet hairstyle, has known serious adversity since taking the US scholarship route in 2006.

He was part of Ireland's winning U-23 team at last winter's European Cross-Country Championships, but over-training and injuries meant that he's hardly run a summer track season in six years.

He originally went to Michigan, but switched to Florida State University in 2009 and has refound his form dramatically this summer, when his 3:34 a month ago qualified him for Daegu and London 2012.

In his final season in FSU this year, he was a US collegiate finalist at cross-country and track.

But, back in Michigan, he used to train ("often over-train," he admits) with New Zealand's Nick Willis, who won 1500m silver in Beijing, and O'Lionaird credits the Kiwi's success with restoring his own self-belief and motivation.


"The fact that I was able to keep with Nick (in training), that definitely gave me some perspective. You realise he's not superhuman, he's just a normal guy. That's the stuff you need to see in order to believe you can make it to the next level," he said.

An intelligent run in his heat got him into today's second semi-final (12.05) which, coincidentally, includes Willis, the reigning Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop, Kenya's Daniel Komen and Ethiopia's world silver medallist Deresse Mekonnen.

Only the top five (plus two fastest losers overall) go through, so he's unlikely to make it, but, for O'Lionaird, Daegu is all capital in the bank for London 2012.

Irish Independent

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