Thomas Barr scorched to a new Irish record of 48.39 seconds in winning his 400m hurdles semi-final at the Rio Olympics writes Will Downing.
Barr produced his usual scintillating come-from-behind surge in the closing straight to rise from fourth to first over the last two hurdles, taking out Kenyan Haron Koech and American Byron Robinson to win the semi.
The World University Games champion celebrated his win wildly, taking quarter of a second off his own Irish record set at last year’s Diamond League meeting in Rome.
The Ferrybank AC hurdler qualified overall in the third-fastest time after the USA’s 2007 and 2009 world champion Kerron Clement (48.26) and Annsert Whyte of Jamaica (48.32), who won the other two semis, showing that there’s big potential for the Irishman in the final.
He’s the first Irish athlete to reach an Olympic sprint final since Bob Tisdall in the same event in 1932.
Joining Barr, Clement, Whyte and Koech in the final will be European champion Yasmani Copello of Turkey (formerly of Cuba), Rasmus Magi of Estonia, Kenyan Boniface Tumuti, and 2012 bronze medallist Javier Culson of Puerto Rico, who also has two world silvers to his name.
The decider takes place Thursday 4pm Irish time, and having been drawn in lane four, Barr cannot wait.
“Coming from where I’ve come from, to get into an Olympic final…. Anyone will tell you, an Olympics is different to the Worlds,” an enthused Barr explained.
“It comes with a lot more pressure and a lot more focus. At the Olympic Games, everyone always ups their game.
“I didn’t think I would be standing here, coming with the preparation that I had, waiting to go into an Olympic Final.
“That really is astonishing, and to come home with a new national record as well.
“To be honest, when I crossed the finishing line first, I just didn’t care what the time was. But then when I saw that come up on the screen, I didn’t know what to do, I was rubbing my head and looking all around the stadium!”
Explaining his famous closing kick, Barr related: “Coming over the last 30 or 40 metres, I maintained my focus. Something just flashed and said: ’Don’t stop, there’s an Olympic final on the line here.’
“I can’t believe I’ve done it.
“I was 11th in the Worlds last year, I’m already ahead of where I was last year.
“Olympics is something completely different. It’s the same field, the same guys I’m running against in every other Championships, but the Olympics has that prestige, that awe factor and the public draw, and I’m in the final eight.”
Barr has made so much history in reaching the final, but the greatest chapter is waiting to be written.