O'Keefe injury coming along slowly

There is real concern in the Irish athletics camp over Eileen O'Keeffe's knee injury - the Kilkenny hammer thrower admitted today that she faces 'a battle for time' to be fit for her first Olympics.

There is real concern in the Irish athletics camp over Eileen O'Keeffe's knee injury - the Kilkenny hammer thrower admitted today that she faces 'a battle for time' to be fit for her first Olympics.

The majority of the 16-strong Irish athletics team flew out from Dublin Airport at lunch-time, bound for Beijing, where they will be accredited, before they transfer to a ten-day training camp in Matsue, Japan.

It is the same training venue Athletics Ireland used as a base prior to last year's World Championships in Osaka.

And while it will be familiar territory for O'Keeffe, the chances of her matching or bettering last year's sixth place finish in Beijing later this month seem very slim.

Commenting on the injury that is threatening her participation in the Games, she revealed: "It's coming along quite slowly. It's a little bit more serious than I initially thought.

"I thought it might just be a bit of inflammation, but it's actually a ruptured cartilage in my kneecap.

"I suppose it's a battle for time at this stage. I've just been a bit unfortunate that it's happened now (right before the Olympics), but that's the way it goes."

O'Keeffe threw an excellent 72.75 metres two weeks ago when winning her eighth Irish title but her left knee swelled in the subsequent days, prompting her to withdraw from last Friday's Morton Memorial meeting.

"I suppose the injury disappointed me a bit more at the Morton Memorial when I saw the 2000 Olympic champion (Kamila Skolimowska) and current World champion (Betty Heidler) throwing less than I did at my Nationals," she added.

O'Keeffe, who admits that speed is her big asset in the hammer cage, gave an indication of the type of training on the cards in Matsue.

"Obviously to keep my strength work up is a bit difficult with the knee for a lot of the (weigh) lifts.

"So I'll try to alter them a bit so I don't bend as low and try and maintain them to the best of my ability," said the 27-year-old, who gave up her job as a theatre nurse to train full-time for the Olympics.

"I'll try to get back on my technique and get my rhythm, do some technical analysis, even just visualising good throws even if I can't physically do it!

"Hopefully by the 18th, I have a little bit of time to play with and I can get a bit more back to myself."

August 18 is the all important date for O'Keeffe, when qualification for the hammer final takes place at 9.10am (local time) in the National Stadium.

If she can return to fitness in time, does her recent form and the form of her rivals at the Morton Memorial offer her a glimmer of hope for Olympic success?

"I would say that if I was going out (to Beijing) at my best but I can't say I am right now. I'll just make the best of what I can do and see what happens."

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