Thomas Barr made a promising start to his Olympic campaign in Tokyo today with a second-place finish in his 400m hurdles heat, advancing with ease to Sunday’s semi-final. The 28-year-old Waterford athlete clocked 49.02 to finish second behind world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway (48.65), unleashing his typically strong finish to move into the runner-up position over the final barrier.
“The aim was second place, that’s where I knew I could get to,” he said. “I could have done with a quicker time, but at the same time I didn’t need it. Coming down the home straight I had loads left, I was like, ‘do I stick in this position or go for second?’ and I went for second to get myself a good lane.”
Barr will line up in lane four for the semi-final on Sunday, where only a top-two finish will automatically see him advance. Given he is drawn alongside Warholm and Rai Benjamin, the two best athletes in his event, Barr will likely be chasing one of two non-automatic qualifying positions based on time.
“I don’t feel too tired, the legs feel good, and I’ve a whole day off tomorrow to get ready again,” he said. “There’s definitely more there. I have to get myself into really good position and treat it as if it’s the final. I think it’s going to take my PB (47.97) or near enough to get into the final, that’s what I’m aiming for. I think it’s achievable. Whether or not it happens is another thing but we’ll see what happens – we’re in for another rollercoaster.”
There was no joy for the trio of Irish athletes in the women’s 800m heats this morning – Nadia Power, Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner and Louise Shanahan all eliminated after seventh-place finishes in their respective heats.
“I’m disappointed I couldn’t give more today,” said Cléirigh-Buttner, who clocked 2:04.62. “The fight to get here was draining in itself, the three of us had to go through a lot to safely make it on to the line, and I’m proud of that. It’s been a long time coming and it’s great to be a part of this.”
Power ran with her rivals until the last turn but had nothing left up the home straight and crossed the line adrift in 2:03.74.
“It’s disappointing, it’s not how I wanted to perform,” she said. “I felt so ready, I was in the shape of my life and I don’t know, I just didn’t have it today. It’s tough to get over knowing I came and underperformed when my PB could have got me through the rounds. It’s hard to come to terms with that.”
Power said she had been relaxed on what was her Olympic debut, though a brief illness while at the holding camp in recent weeks didn’t help her chances.
“I’m really confident I was in the right mental space coming up here, I wasn’t freaked out by the occasion,” she said. “I don’t even have a really good excuse; it just wasn’t my day today. That’s not how I want to look back on my Olympics. I’m not where I want to be as an athlete yet, but I see a lot more for me in the future.”
Shanahan reflected with pride after being a late qualifier for the Games, the Leevale athlete clocking 2:03.57 in her heat. “I’m obviously not delighted with it, but I put myself in position and it didn’t happen on the day,” she said. “This year has been a year I only could have dreamed of. I ran a massive PB indoors and from that I consistently built those times. I wanted the national senior vest the last few years and I said this might be my year. Never in a million years did I actually think I’d get my first senior vest at the Olympics.
“I would have liked to make it through. I came here to compete, this wasn’t a holiday, but I can now call myself an Olympian and if that’s the worst thing that happens today, that’s a pretty good day.”