Phil Healy has said the 200m will be her “main focus” this summer, but is not ruling out doubling up at the Tokyo Games should she qualify in the 400m.
The Ballineen sprinter also believes the Irish 4x400m mixed relay team, of which she is a central cog, has a “massive opportunity” to secure Olympic qualification at this weekend’s World Relays in Poland.
The 26-year-old rounded off a four-week warm weather training camp in Mijas, Spain in encouraging form on Sunday when clocking 52.51 over 400m, the first time she has raced the distance outdoors in three years. And considering her time was just three-tenths of a second shy of her 400m outdoor PB, this was an impressive season opener.
Whereas Healy is sitting pretty in terms of 200m qualification — she is ranked 30th, with 56 spots up for grabs — the multiple Irish record holder is not yet on the ranking list for the 400m as she has not run the prerequisite number — three — of outdoor races which feed into an athlete’s ranking score. Her two best runs at last month’s European indoors — 51.94 and 52 seconds flat — provide a solid foundation, with Healy predicting she will need three outdoor times in the low 52s to take her into the top 48 in the world who compete in the one-lap event at Tokyo.
“The 200m will be the main focus and hopefully, my spot is pretty much secured as is. But we will race a few times over 200m in the coming weeks and hopefully lower my ranking further,” said Healy, speaking from her training base in Spain.
“For the 400m, European indoors set me up really well in terms of ranking points. I still need three more races outdoors so as to have five 400m times that will get me on the full ranking system. If [qualification in the 400m] comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
“Different races will have different bonus points, so it is just about getting into the right races. Shane [McCormack] is taking care of all the race plans. We will have a few 400s lined up at the start of June and going on into nationals.
“How the indoor season went definitely gives me an extra confidence boost to take it on and be excited for what is ahead this summer. Everything is going to plan, but there are a lot of boxes to tick between now and the Games, so that is what is keeping me focused instead of getting carried away about the Games.”
One of those boxes is this weekend’s World Relays in Silesia, Poland. Progression from the heats to the final of the 4x400m mixed relay would be sufficient to secure the Irish quartet involvement at the Olympics, while a top 12 finish would mean qualification for next year’s World Championships.
Along with Healy, the Irish selection consists of Sophie Becker, Sharlene Mawdsley, Thomas Barr, Chris O’Donnell, and Andrew Mellon. Two males and two females from this six will be chosen to run on Saturday.
“Everyone is saying we have a really good chance, that a place in the final is certainly a great possibility. Looking at the team, we have a great standard of athletes, so I definitely think we have a massive opportunity to get into that final and qualify for the Olympics.
“Chris O’Donnell, Sophie Becker, and I were here in Spain together so we got in some relay practice, baton changes and getting used to the zones, which is important because it has been a good while since we have all run a 4x400.”
Closer to home, Healy hailed the recent announcement that her home club, Bandon AC, is to develop a six-lane all-weather track, complete with event areas, along with a combined clubhouse and indoor facility.
Healy said the project, when finished, will represent a “massive turning point” for athletics in West Cork.
“To see that it is actually going to be underway now very soon is absolutely super. For me, Bandon is just 20 minutes drive from home, whereas if I had to go to either of the Cork city tracks, that is over an hour away.
“It is ideal knowing I will have access to a track so close to home. It is super to know that all the kids in the town and surrounding areas are going to have such a great facility. And the facilities alone might attract new members to the club.”