CIARAN Ó LIONAIRD can’t wait to get his preparations for next year’s Olympic Games underway and, after his Daegu odyssey, he can plan for the future with world-class funding from the Irish Sports Council.
Finbarr Kirwan, the ISC director of high performance, was very impressed by his fellow Corkman’s performances in Korea, where he ran 3:36.96 in the semi-finals of the 1500m and then 3:37.81 for 10th place in Saturday’s final.
He had not run under 3:40 until the beginning of last month when he posted 3:34.46 in Belgium to reach the ‘A’ standard for London 2012 and spring from obscurity to fourth place on the Irish all-time list.
“He was very impressive in all the three races he ran in Daegu,” Kirwan said. “Tactically he got it right every time. I have never seen a collegiate athlete perform like that at a major championship. He is going to be a great ambassador for Irish athletics.
He said Ó Lionaird will now receive world-class funding, which amounts to €20,000, along with all the other benefits available to Carded athletes. He also confirmed world-class funding for high jumper Deirdre Ryan, who set a new Irish record of 1.95m to qualify for Saturday’s final where she cleared 1.89m and 1.93m before failing narrowly at 1.97m.
Ó Lionaird’s reaction to Saturday’s final was disappointment but he was just one of many who fell victim to the Olympic champion’s blistering 51-second final lap. Asbel Kiprop became the youngest ever Olympic 1500m champion at just 19 years of age following the disqualification of Rashid Ramzi on a positive drugs test after the Beijing Olympics and he now becomes Kenya’s first world 1500m champion.
Fellow Kenyan Silas Kiplagatwent into the race as favourite but ended up with the silver medal while Matthew Centrowitz Jr., a 21-year-old student at the University of Oregon who won the NCAA 1500m title earlier this summer, ran the race of his life to claim the bronze medal for the USA.
“It depends in what context you look at it given the way the race went,” Ó Lionaird said. “But out there nine of them beat me and that’s tough to take. You get to the final and you want to win a medal.
“But I have to look at the positives. Coming back after so many injuries I try to run every race on its merits. From what has happened here this week I have a lot of positives to take with me to the London Olympics.
“Now I know what I need to do. I have learned such a lot throughout the week. My competitors are more experienced than me so I am looking forward to sitting down and taking a look at their tactics.
“I expected to make it out of the heats but making the semi was a big achievement for me and I admit it took a lot out of me. I was two hours in anti doping — I could not produce a sample — and I found it difficult to sleep that night. I was dehydrated.
“Next year I won’t have that. I’ll expect to get into the final — I’ll be ready for that.
“I have given myself something to build on. It’s never good to be beaten but I walk away from here with a bit of fire in my stomach.”
Irish team manager Patsy McGonagle welcomed the news of world-class funding for Ó Lionaird and Ryan with immediate effect.
“I am long enough in this game not to get too excited about things but I am really excited about Ciaran Ó Lionaird. He is an exceptional talent and he has been a great ambassador for our sport out here.”
There was bitter disappointment for European silver medallist Derval O’Rourke who had to withdraw from the semi-finals of the women’s 100m hurdles with a calf muscle injury sustained while warming up. She flew home yesterday morning.
Sally Pearson scorched to an Oceania Area record of 12.36 secs in the semi-finals and followed up with a sensational 12.28 secs to win the gold medal with the two Americans, Danielle Caruthers and Dawn Harper, taking silver and bronze respectively.
Ireland’s Alistair Cragg was well out of contention when the men’s 5,000m final developed into a 52.40-sec last lap dust-up as Mo Farah held off Bernard Lagat (USA) to claim Great Britain’s first victory in the event in 13:23.36.
In fact Eamonn Coghlan, who won the inaugural title, is the only other European to win the event. Farah, who was pipped in the 10,000m final, held off Lagat (13:23.64) in the finishing straight with Imane Merga taking the bronze medal in 13:23.78. Cragg finished 15th in 13:45.33.
Colin Griffin was disqualified in the men’s 50km walk on Saturday, the day Irish record holder Robert Heffernan, who was back home in Cork following the death of his mother, resumed full training in advance of a shot at the 50km Olympic standard in Germany on September 25.
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