The problem with big breakthroughs is they tend to happen only once, so in the aftermath, athletes can be left shaking their heads and scouring their training diaries to rediscover the blueprint for success.
For Thomas Barr, approaching 2017 has proven a tricky task. After all, he missed 11 weeks of training on the build-up to the Olympics last year with a hip injury, yet somehow everything clicked when it mattered most in Rio, the Waterford man smashing the national record in the Olympic 400m hurdles final to finish fourth in 47.97.
But no one plans for injury, as Barr knows, even if sometimes it has plans for you. Late last month the 24-year-old picked up a grade one hamstring tear in training, an ill-timed mishap which arrived a little over four weeks out from the London World Championships.
“I had an MRI scan the next day and it was a minor grade one tear,” he said. “But it’s happened a few times before where I’ve come back with fresh legs [after an injury] so I’m not panicking. I know how to deal with it.”
Yesterday afternoon in Santry, where he launched this weekend’s Irish Life Health National Senior Championships, Barr struck an optimistic tone about the weeks ahead.
“Going by 200m and 300m times in training, I’m already ahead of where I was last year so I’ve had a good winter,” he says. “I’m back on track now.”
Sunday’s action will be broadcast live on RTÉ from 6pm, with Athletics Ireland moving the programme to a later slot to avoid a clash with the All-Ireland hurling quarter final in Cork.
“It’s a great move,” said Barr yesterday. “Athletics is a minority sport in Ireland and it’s hard to get people in the gate and to tune in. We need to do all we can and to put it out live on RTÉ at prime time is great.”
RTÉ, however, will not be airing the World Championships in London after deeming the broadcasting rights too expensive. “It’s disappointing,” said Barr, “but it’s beyond our control.”
Sunday will be the last chance for any potential additions to the Irish team for London, and despite having an interrupted season to date due to a calf tear, Olympian Kerry O’Flaherty is hoping for some heroics at the eleventh hour before the qualification window closes.
The 36-year-old has clocked 9:50.75 for the 3000m steeplechase already this season but needs to run 9:42 to book her place, with at least 9:44 required to qualify under the quota system. “I think a 9:42 is there but it’s about getting into a good race,” she said yesterday. “With the crowd behind us on Sunday you never know.”
Meanwhile the European Junior Championships get under way in Grosseto, Italy today, with 10 Irish athletes in action on the first day of competition.
Just like last year, when Barr missed 11 weeks of training because of a hip injury then turned it around in time for Rio, it’s a race against time.
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