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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 13 November, 2018
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Barr wishes he was 'in same shape' as last year with injury making it a race against time for Rio

The hard work begins now for the 400m hurdler.

Barr is preparing for his first Olympics.
Barr is preparing for his first Olympics.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

WITH LESS THAN a month until the Olympic Games, Thomas Barr admits he faces a race against time to be fully fit to take to the start line in Rio.

Ireland’s 400m hurdler’s year has been plagued by a hip injury and last week’s European Championships highlighted the work that still needs to be done if he is to be competitive in Brazil.

The 23-year-old clearly lacked race sharpness as he failed to qualify for the 400m hurdles final in Amsterdam, finished fifth in a season’s best of 50.09 seconds.

He now has five weeks to regain his fitness and rediscover that stride pattern and rhythm on the track with his coach Hayley Harrison.

“There is a lot to do but what really held me back during the week was my stride pattern, I just couldn’t get back into the rhythm of running right,” Barr explained.

“Like I’ve had to change a lot this year to try and alleviate this hip problem. I’ve changed my running mechanics so I’ve had to pretty much learn how to run in a different position.

“While doing that I’m trying to get back fit and keep up with my rehab and strength and conditioning and then trying also to do hurdle sessions.

Thomas Barr Barr continued his injury recovery in Amsterdam. Source: Karen Delvoije/INPHO

“That’s what really held me back, I just felt I couldn’t get going.”

The debilitating injury has derailed Barr’s 2016 season with the Waterford athlete only returning to action at last month’s National Championships after an 11-week lay-off.

He was understandably slow out of the blocks but hit his straps in the final to surge to another national title – and he was able to build on that in Holland last week.

“I’ve a lot to do but I’m glad I did the Europeans as it has kind of spring-boarded me forward and given me a lot of confidence in my body,” Barr continued.

“I got through four rounds in five days and they were intense rounds, it’s not like I was trotting around. I was going hell for leather so it’s really pushed me on as my coach was saying, the couple of days of competition are worth so much more than the four days of training I would have done.

“I was disappointed in my own performance and the relay obviously but definitely I think it was the right choice. I’m just aware of it [the injury] all the time but it’s not getting any worse and that’s the main thing.”

“I just wish that I was in better shape, like I wish I was in the same shape that I was in last year.”

Barr, along with the rest of the Irish team, arrived home from the European Championships on Monday.

While the hero’s welcome was reserved for bronze medalist Ciara Meeghan, there were contrasting emotions for Barr and his 4x400m relay team-mates who agonisingly missed out on Olympic qualification.

DAN27920 (1) Barr is an ambassador for Wellman.

While he is naturally optimistic, Barr was clearly hurting from the disappointment and admitted he, Brian Gregan, Craig Lynch and David Gillick were close to tears last night.

“To be honest we were all on the verge of tears,” he added. “Probably even beyond that. It was really tough as we went out in the heats and just gave it everything and fell slightly short of the qualifying mark and thought that we got ourselves in a good position.

“Mentally we were 100%, physically 100%. We were there ready to go, we said we’d go out give it our best shot, leave no stone unturned and try and execute the perfect race.”

Ireland finished seven hundredths of a second off the qualifying time as they came home in fifth place, leaving them in 17th position in the rankings with the top 16 going to Rio.

“Literally give it everything on the track and come out with no regrets and that’s what we did but it just wasn’t enough, just wasn’t enough.

“In fairness taking the positives, we are still fifth in Europe. Six weeks ago we weren’t even sure we were going to have a team at the Europeans so we were kind of held together with duct tape. It just didn’t go our way. If we had a fully fit Irish team out there we definitely would have been going.

Ireland's relay runners dejected after failing to secure automatic qualification for the race at the Rio Games Heartbreak for Barr and Ireland's 4x400m relay team. Source: Karel Delvoije/INPHO

“It’s just tough on the guys who have put in so much work, we’ve all put so much work into the team over the last number of years. It is a lot worse for the guys who don’t have qualification [for Rio] already, they’re probably that little bit worse off.”

Despite the setback over the weekend, Barr is still counting down to his first Olympics – and he wants to be able to give it his all. The hard work begins now.

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Ryan Bailey

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