For a horde of Irish Olympic hopefuls, the race to Tokyo starts here. Six of them have made their way to Ostrava, Czech Republic, for the 60th edition of the famed Golden Spike meeting Wednesday evening, which is live on TG4 from 5pm.
For Nadia Power and Mark English, it’s a chance to consolidate their position on the world rankings to secure their place in Tokyo over 800m. For others, like Paul Robinson, Luke McCann, Seán Tobin and John Fitzsimons, it’s a chance to catapult into contention for a place on the plane.
“It’s a great opportunity, it’s absolutely loaded,” said Robinson, the reigning Irish 1500m champion, who will race over that distance. “It’s a bit strange going into a race this high calibre as my first race but I’ve come off a good camp and a good indoor season. I’m looking to go under 3:37 and go close to running a PB. These chances don’t come along too often.”
Robinson’s best is the 3:35.22 he ran in 2013, which is just outside the automatic Olympic standard of 3:35.00, and he feels his fitness has progressed well after making the European indoor final in March.
“I took a bit of a break after Euro indoors then got straight back into it. You get to a stage where you don’t want to train any more, you just want to race. This season is strange, usually competitions are a little later so you have May, June, July (to qualify) but now you have a month. You have to come out firing on all cylinders.”
Power will be hoping to do similar in the women’s 800m after a recent three-week training camp in Switzerland.
“I’m definitely hoping for my fastest ever opener and to go in around my PB (2:00.98),” she said. “I’m definitely happy with the training I’ve done, the camp pushed me on.”
She is currently 41st on the Road to Tokyo world rankings list, with 48 places available in the 800m, while Mark English is also in good standing at 33rd. He opens his outdoor season against a world-class field and will be looking to start as he did indoors, having set a national record of 1:46.10 back in February. Kildare’s John Fitzsimons is also in the field.
Irish 10,000m champion Seán Tobin will be looking to move up the Olympic 5000m rankings by posting a fast time over 3000m in a race where Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei is going after Daniel Komen’s world record of 7:20.67, which has stood for 25 years.
“I know I’m in good nick and I know I can PB,” said Tobin, who just wrapped up a five-week training camp in Portugal. He plans to race the 5000m in the Diamond League in Gateshead on Sunday before another 5000m in Gothenburg on 2 June.
“We’ve only got a six-week window now for races, and my work is done,” he said. “The next three races will give me a very good indicator whether I’m on track to make the Olympics.”