Thomas Barr came out strongly in support of Irish teammate Fionnuala McCormack at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam last night, calling on athletics authorities to heed the advice of the Wicklow runner.
Barr, who was eliminated after finishing fifth in the semi-final of the 400m hurdles last night, said McCormack had the support of her Irish teammates after she said the rules governing transfers of allegiance in athletics are “a joke”, an issue which has sparked controversy throughout the week in Amsterdam.
“I’d 100% back Fionnuala,” said Barr. “Had it been some other athlete that’s used to mouthing off, it would have fallen on deaf ears, but as it’s Fionnuala, who’s so modest and quietly spoken, her message hit hard. She didn’t go to town. She made her points very clearly and very rationally, so it made sense. She had good reason for it.”
Barr also echoed McCormack’s belief that the initiative to have athletes wear ‘I run clean’ bibs is doing little to combat the doping problem. “I think it’s a bit of a gimmick because there are people out there wearing it that are not running clean,” he said.
“I can see why they did it. It’s to put the message out there that [the sport is] going the right way, but I don’t think it has the desired effect. There’s people [wearing the bibs] that have served doping bans and it is a bit of a joke.”
Barr brought his individual campaign to an end in Amsterdam after finishing fifth in 50.09, which was not enough to see him through to today’s final. The 23-year- old remained in contention as the field turned for home, but when he searched for his usual extra gear over the final two barriers, he came up empty.
“I haven’t done much training but I did expect to be running faster today,” said Barr, who missed 11 weeks through a hip injury in recent months.
“I didn’t feel like I got my stride right and never got into a rhythm. I didn’t have that usual energy in the final straight, which is disappointing. I know I could have gone faster, but maybe the final was too far of a reach anyway. I don’t know if I had another round in my legs.”
With five weeks until the Olympics, Barr remains confident he will be a better athlete with getting another block of training under his belt. “I can take a lot of positives from this,” he said.
“This takes the target off my back. It was good to get into championship mode and hopefully by Rio I’ll be back in good shape. I’ll be working extra hard for these next five weeks. I don’t know if I’ll get back to my very best, but I’ll get close.”
He returns to action tomorrow when he hopes to help the Irish 4x400m team to Olympic qualification. To do so, they will have to run at least 3:04.25 to secure one of the 16 spots available at the Games.
One of his teammates will be Brian Gregan, who also brought his individual campaign to a close last night, finishing seventh in his 400m semi-final in 46.37.
“It’s not where I want to be,” said Gregan. “It’s been a shitty couple of months but I’ve managed to get it together the last 10 days. I opened with 47.7, and to get back to 46.3 is not bad. I’ll get myself recovered now and get ready for the relay.”
Amy Foster advanced to today’s 100m semi-finals after finishing third in her heat in 11.57. “I got the job done,” she said.
“I would expect myself to get through to the semis but it’s a different ball game now.” Marcus Lawler was another to advance in the men’s 200m heats, his time of 21.06 helping him to the semi-final as a fastest loser. “I’m into bonus territory now,” said Lawler.
Sinead Denny was another to impress, despite bowing out with an eighth-place finish in the 400m semi-final in 53.27, which was just 0.01 outside her best.
“I would have liked to have gone a little bit faster but I’ve got to be pleased with my first major championships,” she said. “My goal was to make it to the semi-final and run a PB. I was just outside that but it made me hungry for more.”
There was no joy for Ireland in the middle distance events, with Karl Griffin eliminated after finishing eighth in his 800m heat in 1:49.37.
Declan Murray faced a similar fate after finishing sixth in his heat in 1:50.10, while in the men’s 1500m, Eoin Everard failed to fully recover from a recent illness and was eliminated, finishing 11 th in 3:45.46.
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