Ó Lionáird seeks home comfort

Ciarán Ó Lionáird will turn to his home track and the support of the home crowd at the CIT Stadium in Bishopstown this evening (6.30pm) to launch the final phase of his Olympic build-up in the featured Cork City Sports Cork Airport Mile.

It was at Cork City Sports last year he turned his athletics career around with an encouraging performance in the 1,500, followed by a sub-four mile at the Morton Meet in Santry and then the astonishing 3:34.46 1,500m in Oodegem, Belgium, which qualified him for the World Championships in Daegu where he made the final as well as the Olympic Games.

Since then he ran a 3:54.76 mile at the USA Track and Field Indoor Classic and approached the World Indoor Championships with high hopes before they were shattered by an Achilles tendon injury.

He has not raced competitively since that race in Istanbul on March 11 and has been racing against time to regain full fitness in advance of the Olympic Games.

“Right now I’m as healthy as I’m going to be this year,” he said. “But I’m able to train at almost full capacity.”

He said the big problem has been putting together a shortened training plan — squeezing training into the time available.

“With the Achilles injury, it’s been difficult,” he said. “When you train through injury you have to manage it and the other obstacles that may occur. In my case the obstacles involved my other leg — my right side took a lot of beating. But I have done some good sessions in the past thee weeks — the kind of stuff I was doing before the World Championships in Daegu. The only thing missing has been competitive racing and that’s why Cork City Sports is a crucial part of my build-up to the Games. I need to race competitively to show me where I’m at. More likely than not I’ll race again in Dublin next week but that will depend on how I come off tomorrow’s meet and if my Achilles holds up.

“I have really good momentum right now. I am training well and I am confident we can get it turned around. I’ll be having a hard session after this race tomorrow night and I’ll be working right up to the day of my heat in London. I’m really excited about the sessions over the past three weeks.”

Tonight’s mile will feature 15 sub four minute milers. Ryan Gregson (Australia) 3:52.24, John Rankin (Cayman Islands) 3:54.24, Peter van der Westhuizen (South Africa) 3:54.90, and Ó Lionáird (Leevale), 3:54.72 indoors, head an entry that also includes Irishmen Paul Robinson, 3:55.99, and John Coghlan, 3:59.32.

It is the feature event on a star-studded programme. One of the most exciting races down for decision will be the women’s 400m which includes Irish record holder and Olympian, Joanne Cuddihy (Kilkenny City Harriers) who won the event in 2007 before she went to the Beijing Olympics, her sister Catriona, and two other members of the women’s 4x400m squad, Marian Heffernan and Jessie Barr, who will be up against Shericka Williams (Jamaica) who was silver medallist at the Olympic Games in Beijing where she also won a bronze in the 4x400m relay.

The women’s 3,000m will feature two other members of the Irish Olympic team — Fionnuala Britton, who has qualified at 5,000m, 10,000m and steeplechase and Stephanie Reilly, steeplechase, who will line up alongside two other exciting steeplechasers, Eilish McColgan, whose mother, Liz, competed in Cork some years ago, and Beverly Ramos (Puerto Rico).

Emma Pallant, European U23 cross-country champion, and Charlotte Perdue, former European junior cross-country champion, are also included in a star-studded field as well as Irish national steeplechase champion Michelle Finn (Leevale).

Robert Heffernan and Olive Loughnane finalise their Olympic preparations when they compete in the 3,000m walk.

Colin O’Mara, son of the two-time world indoor 3,000m champion Frank, contests the junior men’s mile which includes Dean Cronin (Blarney/Inniscarra).

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