Eilish Flanagan flies to lifetime best on Olympic debut but Michelle Finn disappointed

Irish duo fail to progress beyond their heats this morning
Eilish Flanagan flies to lifetime best on Olympic debut but Michelle Finn disappointed

Ireland's Eilish Flanagan. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Eilish Flanagan produced a huge lifetime best on her Olympic debut in Tokyo this morning, the 24-year-old clocking 9:34.86 to finish 12th in her steeplechase heat. In hot, humid conditions in the Olympic Stadium, her Irish teammate Michelle Finn finished ninth in an earlier heat, the two-time Olympian dissatisfied with her time of 9:36.26.

“It was hot, it was hard, it wasn’t what I wanted it to be but it was alright,” said Finn. “I found it hard to get going, I wanted to be off the front hanging on for dear life but I was in the outside lane, not where I wanted to be.” 

Flanagan went into the race with a personal best of 9:40.68 and the Adams State student had only just qualified for the Games through her world ranking, but the Finn Valley athlete made a strong impact against world-class opposition.

“I knew I was capable of running a PB but it was tough with the heat,” she said. “I was trying to run my own race and not think of the names and their times. I stayed at the back and was aiming to work up a little more. It worked out.

“Given my last few races I was worried about my fitness and if I was a little burnt out with all the racing I had to do but to run a PB, I’m pretty stoked. It’s definitely still surreal, I can’t really comprehend I’m here and have competed at the Olympics. I’m already looking forward to the next.” 

Ireland’s Michelle Finn. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Ireland’s Michelle Finn. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

For Finn, this was her second appearance at the Games and the 31-year-old Leevale athlete clocked her fastest ever time at a championships, but it was well down on the 9:29.25 she ran back in June, which made her the second fastest Irishwoman of all time.

“I don’t feel that was a good time for me at all,” said Finn, who unleashed a powerful last lap to close the gap on those ahead. “I think I should have gone earlier. I didn’t go when I needed to go. I don’t know why I’m not sadder, I 100 per cent think I can run at least 10 seconds faster and I think I could do that tomorrow. There’s frustration, but I think I’m taking this one better than usual.” 

Thomas Barr is the sole remaining Irish competitor at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, the 28-year-old Waterford athlete going in the semi-final of the men’s 400m hurdles at 1:05pm Irish time, where he needs top-two finish to automatically advance or to be one of the two quickest overall time qualifiers outside that.

He faces a stiff assignment, drawn alongside world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway and Rai Benjamin of USA, the two big favourites for gold in the event.

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