Athlone International athletics meet hosts night of stars

Mutaz Essa Barshim was the star of an electric night of athletics at the Athlone International clearing a world leading 2.41m and a couple of narrow failures at the world record.

There was disappointment at the start of the meet when Asafa Powell pulled his quad muscle in the warm-up and was unable to run the men’s 60m as a result.

Ultimately it was all about the Qatari high jumper who wowed the crowd from the get go. His warm-up was a sign of things to come as he scissor kicked two meters before going on to clear his opening heights with ease.

It really proved to be a one man show as he soared over 2.37m and then went even better with an excellent 2.41m — an indoor personal best. He then had two very close attempts at the world record of 2.45m set 22 years ago by Javier Sotamayor.

“I’m very happy with me performance,” said an ecstatic Barshim, who had the Athlone crowd jumping from the edge of their seats. “That’s an indoor personal best and I’m hoping for more in the coming weeks. I loved being in Ireland and I hope to be back again.”

The men’s mile was to draw the curtain on proceedings with a sub four-minute mile in the offing. It looked like being a two way battle between Leevale’s Ciarán Ó Lionáird and Ben Blankenship. And so it proved with the rest of the runners leaving a gap as Dunleer’s Darragh Greene set the pace for the opening laps.

Blankenship took over at the front and Ó Lionáird looked comfortable in second as the training partners led a procession at the front of the race. With 400m remaining Blankenship began to pull away as the legs completely went from the Leevale man.

The sub four-minute barrier was smashed by USA’s Blankenship as he crossed the line in 3:56.75. There a couple of timing issues at the finish which led to the 60m being run at the end of the programme but there was no doubting the man the crowd had come to see as Mutaz Essa Barshim delivered.


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