Marathon trio vie to be first Irishman home
Paul Pollock, Mick Clohisey and Kevin Seward, Ireland's three representatives in tomorrow's men's marathon (12.30pm), have already had to display a degree of fortitude in waiting until the last day of the Games to finally get to the start line.
Resilience, courage and patience will also be needed in the searing temperatures which they are likely to encounter. Realistically, a top 20 finish for any of the trio would represent a significant achievement in an event likely to be dominated by African-born runners.
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge has been the dominant marathon runner in the world for the last two years. He has five consecutive wins in top-class races under his belt, including the world-leading 2:03.05 he posted when winning the London marathon in April.
Kipchoge won bronze and silver medals in the 5,000m at the Athens and Beijing Games respectively. His compatriot Stanley Biwott was second behind him in London in 2:03.51, but is making his major championship debut.
There is a world of difference between big city marathons, which are always paced, and championship races, particularly the Olympics, which has a history of producing surprises.
Compared to the leading contenders, the best times of the three Irishmen are modest. Pollock's mark of 2:15.38 is the slowest of the trio and his selection ahead of Sergiu Ciobanu was the subject of controversy.
But Pollock has the best track record of any Irish marathoner in recent times: he finished 13th in the marathon at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
Belfast-born Seward (30) is based in Leicester where he works as a teacher. He secured his Olympic spot with an excellent performance in last September's Berlin marathon, when he posted a personal best of 2:14.52. Were he to repeat that performance tomorrow he would finish in the top 20.
Raheny Shamrock's Clohisey has been the top domestic road runner in Ireland for a couple of seasons now, but this will be only his third marathon. He ran 2:15.38 in Berlin and knocked 25 seconds of that time in the Seville marathon in February to book his place in Rio.
He will be aiming for another personal best today, and the competition between the three Irishmen will be a fascinating battle within the bigger race.