PAUL HESSION has been the star act at Cork City Sports for the past five years so it is fitting he should launch the second phase of his build-up to the European Championships at the CIT Athletics Arena this afternoon.
Following impressive performances over 200m at the Diamond League meeting in Rome, then Turin and the European team championships in Budapest, he is already well up among the medal hopefuls for Barcelona.
He runs in the Diamond League meeting in Lausanne on Thursday night but a badly timed national championships means he will miss out on the Diamond League meeting in Gateshead next weekend.
This afternoon he bids for his fifth successive 200m victory at Cork City Sports when he faces a star-studded line-up that includes former world 100m champion Kim Collins (St. Kitts & Nevis), Brendan Christian (Antigua & Barbuda) and Jarred Connaughton, the Canadian 200m champion.
“It’s a good field,” he said. “Kim Collins is an Olympic finalist and world medallist over 200 and world champion over 100; Brendan Christian is always a good athlete – we’ve had some close races in the past – and Jarret Connaughton is an Olympic semi-finalist.”
The fact he will have to miss Gateshead is disappointing for the Athenry sprinter but it will be welcomed by fans because it means he will contest the 200m at Santry where he set the current national record at 20.30 secs when he won the title in 2007.
“I’m running in Lausanne on Thursday in the 200m,” he said. “My plan was to do another 200m – get six 200’s in – and I was down for the Diamond League meeting in Gateshead. Unfortunately, it is not possible to race there because I would not be able to get back for the nationals.
“I need another 200m so it is going to have to be the nationals instead of Gateshead. I just have to go and run hard. I’ll possibly run the heats reasonably hard and then run the final. I have split this season into two phases. Phase 1 is done with so we are starting Phase 2 now – three races in a week – and we will see how this goes.”
“The season’s been good so far. I started off well in Rome over 200 – I had a few 100m races before that – I ran very well, came third in the Diamond League, showed my strength. I finished very strongly – 20.60 is nearly as quick as I ever opened.
“Then I went to Turin which was my third race in four days. I was a little bit tired there but I was glad I did it because it is good for a training affect. I ran 20.73 and I was second and I got a lot from the race.
“I was quite tired but I recouped over the week and then I went to Budapest and ran the 20.46, won the race, felt good. My sharpness started to come back once I’d done those races.”
“My bend wasn’t great in Rome but my bend was much better in Budapest because I’m getting that bit sharper. The last two weeks I’ve had one week of hard training and then started to ease off a little bit in the last two days. Cork will be a nice race to set me up for the big one which will be Thursday night in Lausanne against Usain Bolt and the rest.
“I don’t intend to race between the nationals and the European championships. I’ll go back to Scotland and spend a week there with my coach and then we are going to go to the Athletics Ireland holding camp in Murcia and that will bring me up to three days of my first race in Barcelona.
“I know Jason Smyth is going out so I think we’ll do some training sessions together out of the blocks in Spain. I haven’t trained with him before but I know his coach (Stephen Maguire) very well from times past. Jason is going very well at the moment and if he can maintain his consistency he will make the semi-finals in Barcelona.”
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