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Barr 'more equipped' to bridge the gap as Tokyo countdown begins

The Waterford hurdler resumes his season at the National Athletics Championships this weekend.

THREE SIGNIFICANT DATES in Thomas Barr’s diary this week. Exactly a year until the start of the 2020 Olympics, his 27th birthday and the Irish Life Health National Athletics Championships. 

Barr will hope to add to his haul of 400m hurdles national titles at Morton Stadium this weekend, a meet which marks the start of his second block of competition this summer, having performed strongly on the Diamond League circuit.

Thomas Barr Barr was speaking at the Indeed head office in Dublin this week. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The timing of the World Athletics Championships in Doha in late September means the Waterford hurdler has had to adjust his training and race schedule accordingly, the very nature of change providing its own challenges.

Still, Barr was encouraged by his performances in the early stages of the season, a block of four races finishing with a second-place showing at the Oslo Diamond League behind world champion Karsten Warholm, who set a new European record of 47.33.

Warholm didn’t feature on the podium in Rio three years ago, when Barr agonisingly missed out on Olympic bronze, and although he won European bronze last summer, the Ferrybank athlete knows he has work to do to close the gap.

“Everybody has had to up their game this year,” he tells The42. “I always start off relatively conservatively. I find my groove as I start racing, I’m not really worried.

“At the end of the day, I can only run as fast as I can run, I can’t do any more than that. It’s mad to see how the sport has progressed. It’s going to take a low 47 to get into the medals in Doha and I wouldn’t be surprised if you needed to go sub-47.

“The sport has changed but I’m hoping it has brought me on along with it.”

Barr, bidding for a ninth straight national title in Santry, will then compete at the European Team Championships and Diamond League meets in Birmingham and Zurich before beginning the final countdown to Doha.

“I’m going to go into it with the mentality of leaving it all on the track. Where I am at that point in the season, I have no idea but I’d like to hope to be down in the low 48s. 

European Athletics Championships 2018 - Day Three Barr won European bronze last summer. Source: Martin Rickett

“This season has felt really odd. Even my first couple of races in June, it didn’t feel like it was competition season but I think we’re plugging away nicely, and I’d like to break my personal best from Rio this year.”

Once the Diamond League is over, Barr will go back into a training programme ahead of Doha, using the experience he has built up in recent years to fine-tune his preparations as best he can.  

“I definitely feel more equipped as an athlete now than in Rio, I’ve more experience and I understand the sport a lot more,” he adds. “I’m hoping my performances will reflect that but I feel like I’m in more of a professional mindset now.

“There’s a more experienced head on my shoulders so it should benefit me.”

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Ryan Bailey

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