Ciarán Ó Lionaird hopes to get Olympic year off to a flying start at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston on Saturday.
Ó Lionaird contests the featured mile event with training partners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp along with champion, Kenyan Daniel Komen.
It is unknown territory for the new sensation of Irish middle distance running who has his sights on this next month’s world indoors in Istanbul. His previous best for an indoor 1,500m is 3:48 recorded when finishing second to James Nolan at the national indoors in Belfast four years ago.
But that event must now seem a lifetime ago. Back then he was struggling with form as he battled injury and health problems. But his athletics career was turned on its head last year in Belgium with a stunning 3:34.46 for 1,500m — six seconds faster than he had ever run and the fifth fastest time recorded by an Irish athlete. It opened up a new world for the young Corkman who subsequently joined the famed Nike Oregon Project where he trains alongside European and world champion, Farah and US 10,000m champion Rupp.
Yesterday he was putting the finishing touches to a stint of altitude training at Albuquerque before departing for Boston.
“I’m looking forward to finally getting out on the track,” he admitted. “It’s hard to know how the first race is going to go not having raced in ages. But training has gone very well and I have been building up for the (world) indoors. I have been targeting them along with the Olympic Games because the world indoors can contribute to the outdoors and ultimately the Olympics. I start off in Boston over a mile so that should blow the cobwebs out.”
He had planned to race in Birmingham in a couple of weeks time but he has had rule that out on account of a minor problem with his visa. He just needs to get it stamped and he will have that done when he comes back for the world championships. “But now I will be racing in the USA Track and Field Classic in Arkansas instead of Birmingham and that is a far better race with a lot of Kenyans coming in,” he said.
With his old sparring partner, David McCarthy, running 3:58 for the mile at the weekend and John Coghlan breaking four minutes for the first time he sees the beginning of a whole new era of middle distance running in Ireland.
Darren McBrearty, Mark English and Rory Finnegan, all from Letterkenny, are exceptional athletes. It could be back to the days of Eamonn Coghlan, Ray Flynn, Marcus O’Sullivan, and Frank O’Mara.
“I was delighted for Dave and I rang him immediately afterwards. I was not surprised because I know what he is like.
“When I was injured he helped me and when he needed me I was there. I’m looking forward to some great competition over 1,500m. All those guys will keep me on my toes. I had never trained for 1,500m or a mile before — I did not train properly for it last year — but since I decided it was my event I have done so much preparation.”
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