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Dublin: 13°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Ailis McSweeney: Time to shine for Irish stars on the track

Our resident expert gives us the run down on the first day of athletics action in East London.

Ireland's Fionnuala Britton finishes fourth in the 10,000m final.
Ireland's Fionnuala Britton finishes fourth in the 10,000m final.
Image: ©INPHO/Ian MacNicol

HERE WE GO! The best events of the 30th Olympiad are about to kick off (I’m biased, but I know a lot of people will agree).

Irish Preview

Joanne Cuddihy is first in action this morning in the heats of the women’s 400m and has a really nice lane draw in heat one.

Outside her are two classy athletes, the defending champion Christine Ohuruogu and Francena McCorory of the USA. Ohurougu tends to go through the first 200m at a leisurely pace whereas McCorory went out very hard in the US trials and had to hang on for third in the finishing straight.

Cuddihy can use this knowledge to pace herself nicely and should secure the third automatic qualifying spot ahead of the Brazilian athlete in lane 8.

The men’s 1500m heats are part of the evening programme and Ciarán O’Lionáird has the tactical advantage of going in the third and last heat. The first six from each, together with the six faster losers, qualify for the semi-finals. O’Lionáird will hope to clinch an automatic spot but he will also be aware of what times are needed to qualify outside the top six. Watch out for New Zealand athlete  Nick Willis who took silver in Beijing and the 21 year old Kenyan, Chepseba, who ran a lightning quick time of 3.29.77 in Monaco a couple of weeks ago.

Final Preview

We have an Irish athlete in a final on day one! Fionnuala Britton lines up in the 10,000m final and is aiming for a top 12 finish. The big story is the race between the reigning Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, who is in excellent form having returned from injury, and last year’s world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot. Be prepared for a classic battle between Ethiopia and Kenya for the first track gold of the Games. My sources tell me that a race with a consistent and quick pace from the off will suit Fionnuala.

If the first 5,000m is slow she may struggle to keep in contact as the pace picks up for the second half. At least two of the three who beat her to a medal in the European Championships will be racing and while there are bigger fish to fry it would be nice to cross the finish line ahead of those athletes.

The men’s shot putt should be an excellent final, assuming that the big names make it through the morning’s qualifying groups. Tomas Majewski won’t relinquish his title easily but faces the formidable challenge of the US and Canadian throwers. Perhaps the biggest story of all would be a win or a medal for the German, David Storl. At 22, he is already a World and European Champion and could realistically add an Olympic gold to his growing collection.

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Ailis McSweeney

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