Ireland’s mixed 4x400m team of Cillin Greene, Phil Healy, Sophie Becker and Chris O’Donnell produced an outstanding run at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Friday night to power into the Olympic final, smashing the national record by four seconds when clocking 3:12.88 to finish second in their heat.
Greene got the team off to a flying start, passing the baton to Healy in first place, who held things together brilliantly on the second leg before handing over to Wexford’s Becker. She ran another strong leg before passing to O’Donnell, the Sligo athlete getting the baton in fifth but with a woman on the final leg for Nigeria, he powered up to fourth by the time he crossed the line.
The Irish quartet initially were waiting on the second heat to assess their chances of making the final given they had not secured a top-three finish, but disqualifications for the US and Dominican Republic saw them upgraded to second, advancing automatically.
“It’s unbelievable, we’ve job one done,” said Healy. “Anything can happen in a relay so we just have to go out there and execute our race tomorrow and there’s a blank canvas.” The final takes place on Saturday at 1:35pm Irish time.
It was the first appearance on the Olympic stage for all four members but nerves appeared not to be a factor. “I think having no spectators was a bonus in ways, we just knew what we had to do,” said Healy. “We’re in an Olympic final, we’re going in highly seeded, second in our heat. It’s going to be at a decent Irish time as well so it’ll be great to have the followers at home again.”
O’Donnell paid thanks to all those who had offered their support in recent weeks.
“There might be no one in the stands but we know there’s a full stadium at home watching us and they’ve been absolutely amazing,” he said. “We know they’ll be back tomorrow running the four legs with us again.”
#Athletics— Team Ireland (@TeamIreland) July 30, 2021
The USA have been disqualified, moving Ireland's 4x400m mixed relay team into an Automatic Qualifying position...
For the OLYMPIC FINAL!!!
🇮🇪🇮🇪🇮🇪🇮🇪🇮🇪🇮🇪#TeamIreland #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/RQ97jjHabu
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