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David Gillick urges Irish athletics to nurture medal hopes for 2028 Olympics

‘If we blood them now… we might have a conversation that could be a lot different around medals.’

Gillick was speaking at the launch of the European Week of Sport.
Gillick was speaking at the launch of the European Week of Sport.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

DAVID GILLICK HAS urged Ireland’s young track and field Olympians to view the Tokyo Games as a springboard to future success, potentially at Los Angeles 2028.

Team Ireland returned from Japan with four medals, including two golds, all of which were won in boxing and rowing.

No track and field athlete made the podium and Gillick, who competed over 400m in Beijing in 2008, said the chances are there’ll be no medals in Paris in three years either.

But the former European indoor champion believes time is on the side of many young athletes and he encouraged them to look to the long-term.

Speaking at the launch of the European Week of Sport, which runs from 23-30 September, Gillick said Tokyo was a ‘reality check’ regarding Irish athletics but claimed the future can still be bright.

He said: “We do have a lot of talent in the country, all you have to do is look at the medals we won at juniors and U20s. There’s something there, there’s definitely something happening which is great.

“So how do we get up to the next level? Because that’s our Paris ’24, that’s our LA ’28 and our Brisbane, the next three Olympics. How do we make sure that we have a robust system that enables the athletes and the coaches to develop as well?”

Gillick reckons even greater support for athletes and coaches would help though said there’ll be no quick fixes.

Asked if track or field medals in three years in Paris are likely, he shook his head.

Gillick said: “Medals? No. I don’t think we’re talking medals. That’s not being negative or defeatist, it’s just a reality of where we’re at. Probably the majority of athletes that did qualify for Tokyo, they qualified on quota places, so they’re not hitting the individual qualification standards.

“If you’re not hitting that, the realistic shot of getting a medal is very low. In terms of medals, we’re probably a little bit off that right now. What I would be looking for is athletes to go to Paris and to perform, be it PBs, season bests, national records and hopefully make a final.

“It’s great that we had a bit of youth in Tokyo because that does suggest if we blood them now, we get them to Paris and hopefully maybe come LA, we might have a conversation that could be a lot different around medals.”

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Gillick reckons a greater emphasis on technical, field events could yield potential medals in the future too.

He explained: “The technical events are something we could really focus on. The Swedes did it back in the ’90s and the noughties, they really targeted the more technical events as opposed to say the endurance or the speed based events where you’re always up against the Africans and the Caribbean and American athletes so a more technical approach could be something to look at.

“The other thing is to realise what progress is, what a semi-finalist, a top-10, or a top-16 athlete actually means. Because top-16 in the world is very impressive. Make a final and you’re in the top-8. Tom Barr was ninth overall, Brendan Boyce was 10th. Andrew Coscoran went in at 41st and came out at, I think, 21st, so that’s huge in terms of rankings and improvements. All that is very, very positive.”

European Week of Sport is a week-long celebration of sport which promotes physical activity in people of all ages, backgrounds, or fitness levels. For more information, see www.sportireland.ie/europeanweekofsport

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Paul Keane

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