Hession out to overcome challenge of Jamaican duo

PAUL HESSION, who looks a serious contender for a place in the final of the 200m at next month’s Olympic Games, doubles up in the 100m and 200m at The Mardyke today.

The Athenry sprinter been taking on the biggest of challenges all season, like Salamanca where he won the 200m in 20.55 secs despite a 40 minute delay and the withdrawal of the two athletes outside of him.

And that night, also, he finished third in a packed 100m in 10.23 secs while his 20.26 secs for third in Thessalonika earlier this week would have been a new national record but for a three metre per second tailwind. He set the national record at 20.30 secs at the Woodies DIY national championships last year and, in fact, holds all the national records from 60m (indoors) up to 300m.

Probably one of the most exciting performances of his career was at the Bislett Golden League meeting in Oslo where he finished second to Brendan Christian (20.39 secs) in 20.48 secs on a tight track not conducive to 200m running.

Today he faces strong fields in both sprints that include two Jamaicans, Chris Williams, who has already claimed his place on their Olympic team, and Dwight Thomas, a former winner in Cork.

Another of Ireland’s Beijing-bound athletes, Alistair Cragg, has chosen the 1,500m at The Mardyke to launch what will be a pretty busy week for the former European indoor 3,000m champion.

Next Friday night he will compete over 3,000m in Paris and then, the following morning, he will jet back to Dublin for the national championships.

This will be his second appearance at The Mardyke. The last time he finished third in the 1,500m.

Meanwhile, Deirdre Byrne could add her name to the list of Olympic qualifiers over the coming days if things go according to plan.

Midweek she won the 1,500m in Stockholm in 4:10.00 which is just three seconds outside the A standard for Beijing.

“That performance puts her very close to qualifying for the Olympics,” manager, Patsy McGonagle, said. “She competes in a good quality 1,500m in Morocco this weekend and Athletics Ireland will send her to a meeting in Belgium during the week so I think she has a very good chance of getting the standard.”

But 400m record holder, Joanne Cuddihy, has decided to catch up on some missed training over the coming week. She did not look sharp when finishing third in Thessalonika earlier in the week in a modest 53.16 secs.

She won’t be competing in Cork today and, according to Patsy McGonagle, is doubtful for next week’s meeting in Lucerne.

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