Marathon runners now wait on Rio selectors

For several of Ireland’s best marathoners, the door finally closed on Olympic qualification at the London Marathon yesterday, with the race to Rio de Janeiro now left in the hands of selectors ahead of next month’s deadline.

Rathfarnham’s Sean Hehir was the leading Irish finisher, running a personal best of 2:17:20. The race was won by Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who routed the field and narrowly missed the world record with his winning time of 2:03:05.

Hehir, a former winner of the Dublin Marathon, broke his personal best by 15 seconds, but his time will not be enough to enter the reckoning for Olympic selection. He was followed in by Thomas Frazer, who also passed halfway in under 67 minutes but also faded over the latter half to record 2:19:17. Stephen Scullion was the third Irish finisher, the 27-year-old paying heavily for a fast first half of 1:06:27 and coming home in 2:20:39, while Gary O’Hanlon ran 2:21:42.

Laura Graham of Mourne Harriers was the leading Irish home in the women’s race, running 2:48:03, ahead of Fionnuala Ross of Armagh AC (2:49:57).

With Paul Pollock forced to withdraw last week with a foot injury, the selection picture for the Olympics remains unclear ahead of the team announcement on May 23.

While Lizzie Lee and Fionnuala McCormack are certain to be picked on the women’s side, and Kevin Seaward on the men’s, the remaining spots are still up in the air. The third fastest Irishwoman is Belfast’s Breege Connolly, who ran her qualifying time of 2:37:29 a year ago, but has shown scant evidence of form in 2016.

On the men’s side, Sergiu Ciobanu, Mick Clohisey and Paul Pollock have all made legitimate cases for selection. Of those, Clohisey is the fastest, but Ciobanu ran his qualifying time in the earliest performance window, which was said to be of higher priority to selectors.

Pollock, meanwhile, is fourth fastest on marathon times, but trounced both Seaward and Ciobanu at the World Half Marathon Championships last month, where he finished 14th. The decision will be made on May 23.

Elsewhere at the Athletics Ireland congress on Saturday, Georgina Drumm was elected president of the association, beating Ray Flynn by a count of 171 votes to 23.

“I’m delighted to be elected,” said the Louth woman, who took over from Ciarán Ó Catháin. “I’m looking forward to working with the CEO, all the staff and volunteers.”

A new board was also elected, and CEO John Foley addressed the gathering on the day. “The sport in Ireland is growing by the year with increasing membership and the association becoming more self-sufficient alongside the continued support of Sport Ireland,” he said.

Foley also spoke about the video of UCC athlete Phil Healy’s memorable leg of the 4x400m relay at the Universities Championships, which went viral worldwide earlier this week.

“The sport in Ireland, and internationally, got a huge lift,” he said. “Her performance, alongside the colourful commentary, showed why athletics still matters and how true competition can capture the attention of those far and wide. We have a sport to be proud of.”


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