Many times in her career, Fionnuala McCormack has had to grin and bear as she dealt with the bitter taste of fourth place at a major championships, but this time it was clear she had enough.
“I’m sick of it,” said McCormack, moments after stepping off the track in Amsterdam after last night’s European 10,000m final, her fourth place finish in 31:30.74 seven seconds shy of a medal. “It’s the exact same thing every f**king time. It’s more than frustrating at this stage.”
McCormack ran with the main pack for much of the race before losing contact with runner-up Ana Dulce Felix and bronze medallist Karoline Grovdal with a little over eight laps to run, but the Kilcoole athlete said afterwards had no regrets. “I did everything I could,” she said.
However, McCormack spoke out strongly against the lax rules which allowed race winner Yasemin Can of Turkey to compete and deny her a place on the rostrum. Can, formerly known as Vivian Jemutai, became the latest Kenyan athlete to switch nationality and run for Turkey in May last year.
“It’s a joke,” said McCormack. “People shouldn’t be allowed to hop countries just because they feel like it. They’re taking such a soft approach?
“Once you’ve represented one country past a certain age, that should be your country for life. I don’t just want to go on like I’m bitter for coming fourth, because I’m not, but there’s a reason it’s called the European Championships.”
McCormack also took aim at the ‘I run clean’ bibs which athletes are duty bound to wear at the event, something she feels has no effect on eradicating doping. “It’s a complete joke. I’ve said it to people at the top and they’ve basically just said it’s not something you have a choice in, just go and do it as it makes [the sport] look good to the rest of the public. The athletes are basically pawns in the whole thing.”
Elsewhere yesterday Thomas Barr made a strong start to his campaign, coming home a comfortable winner in the qualifying rounds of the men’s 400m hurdles heat in a season’s best of 50.17. “It felt faster than that,” said Barr, who was running just his third race of the season after missing 11 weeks through injury.
“I thought it would be sub-50, but it was extremely windy and the track feels a little slow. I know I can push on a bit in the semi-final. That was a big confidence boost. I’m learning more and more technically in each race and I’m gaining fitness, so I’ll be going in with no expectation or pressure and that’ll help me run fast.”
Paul Byrne ran a strong opening 300 metres in his heat of the 400m hurdles, but it proved a pace he couldn’t maintain and the St Abbans athlete finished fourth in 53.12. “I felt great until the final turn, but then the wheels came off,” said Byrne. “I’m gutted.”
Brian Gregan was the only Irish 400m athlete to advance to today’s semi-finals, navigating a difficult lane draw to finish fifth in his heat in 47.02. “Lane one is a tricky one,” said Gregan. “I nearly head-butted the cameraman the first 30 metres, but I felt comfortable enough and still qualified. It was massively windy so the times were pretty abysmal all around, but I’m looking forward to the semi-final and giving it a lash again. I won’t be reserving anything. I’ll be going for it.”
Craig Lynch was eliminated after finishing seventh in 47.61, while on his return to international action after a four-year absence, David Gillick finished eighth in his heat in 47.81.
Sinéad Denny made the perfect major championship debut by finishing third in her 400m heat in 53.95 to make today’s semi-final. “It was really good,” said the Dubliner. “I didn’t save anything for the home straight, but I knew I would come home strong.”
Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner was eliminated after finishing fifth in her heat of the women’s 800m, losing out by just 0.07 of a second. “I ran my own race and couldn’t have done much more,” she said. “I just came up a bit short.”
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