Thursday, August 14, 2014

Christine Closes Out Her Great Season

Christine McMahon brought the curtain down on the hurdlers interest at this years European Championship when finishing 8th in her semi-final. Her time of 57.31 was yet again close to her PB and closes out, what has been for her, a superb season. After a couple of frustrating seasons when moving out of junior ranks, she made huge jumps this season and began to realise that huge potential she showed as a 17 year old when medalling at the EYOF championships five years ago.

She took over 2.5 seconds off her PB this season which is phenomenal. She qualified for the Commonwealth Games and despite a disappointing performance there she bounced back brilliantly in Zurich yesterday by qualifying for today's semi-final. She ran the 2nd fastest time of her life in that heat and today she ran the 3rd fastest of her life. If an athlete goes to a majors and does that they have to be happy. She hoped to PB today and probably would have for a stutter at hurdle 7 but it sets it all up for another great season in 2015. It will be exciting to see Christine and a rejuvenated Jessie Barr doing battle and pushing each other on in the coming years.

This is a great shot to close out what has been a great season for hurdling in Ireland. Until next season!




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hard Lessons Will Steel Barr For Future Battles

Down But Not Out

Anyone who has ever done a 400m hurdles race will have been there. You are mid race, you are approaching a hurdle maybe four or five strides out and you are between strides. Do you attack and go for four strides or do you adjust and go for five. Now very few (or even none of us) have ever been in that situation with the reigning World bronze medalist outside you, a flying Frenchman passing you on the inside and the local hero also charging up on an inside lane. Throw in the fact its the semi-final of the senior European championship and there is an expectation you will make the final. Most of us will have been in that situation in a National League race in Sligo, a Schools qualifier in Athlone or a Munster championships in Castleisland. Slightly less pressure.

Go hard and attack is what many would say but its easy to suggest that when there is little at stake. It can be high risk and it can be one of the times when you can clip a hurdle and fall in a 400m hurdles race due to be being too far away from the hurdle. The other option is adjust and go with the extra stride and clear the hurdle perfectly.

This decision seemed to face Thomas Barr as he approached hurdle 7 in today's semi-final. Some are suggesting he went out too slow in the first 200m and left too much to do but I feel he was fine until hurdle 7 and was on track to unleash his withering last 150m push and actually take the win, going sub 49. Approaching hurdle 7 he seemed to adjust to transition down to 14 strides from 13 strides. Normally this will be fine but it this case he lost some momentum that may have affected his run in. He had an outrageous last 50m but there was too much to be done at that stage. He nearly chased down Emir Bekric but lost out by 0.09 secs in the end.

That decision to riskily attack or adjust will need to be made in a split second and will probably be sub-conscious. Can you train for it, probably not for a high pressure environment. Going through the experience in that high pressure environment and for real is probably the only way to do it. They say the best companies or businesses are those who make mistakes and make them early but learn from those mistakes early. If you can classify Thomas Barr's approach to hurdle 7 today as a mistake (to do so could be harsh and I would agree with his decision to adjust), isn't it better that he has gone through that experience so early in his career.

The next time he is in that situation again he will be better equipped to manage it. That situation could be in a gusty Rio de Janiero in an Olympic semi-final in 2016. If Barr is in that situation there and comes out the other end by qualifying for an Olympic final thanks to a split second decision at hurdle 7, then he will look back to that millisecond on the bend in Zurich two years previously as a key learning on the road to that final. The 400m hurdle takes many years to master. You have to go through many downs, many errors and many mistakes before you are the complete long hurdler. Thomas Barr is 22, he is still a novice at the event, he is still learning and his best years are still to come. The quicker he makes his mistakes, the quicker he will reach his true potential.

McMahon Seizes The Day And Lives To Fight Another Day

Sonia O' Sullivan spoke this week about Irish athletes seizing this opportunity of competing the European Championships. Robin Williams passed away this week and one of the great parts he played was the teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society. "Carpe, hear it? Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day" was a famous line of his in that movie.

Christine McMahon went into this morning's 400H heat at the European Championship ranked 20th. Top 16th would progress to the semi-finals so McMahon would need to over perform to progress. It was wet and miserable, not unlike a standard Irish day, and Sara Peterson was first to flinch and was DQ'd with a false start. McMahon's chances had improved without running a stride in anger.

When they got away, she ran well, very well but it was still a battle up to the last. Lying in 3rd coming to the last she was going to come under pressure from the local Swiss athlete, Petra Fontanive, for that final big Q spot. She was seizing the day and the opportunity as much as she could.

At the last, fortune, but only so due to her nifty footwork to avoid the falling Hanna Ryzhykova, smiled on her as she moved into 2nd. She was caught on the line by Fontanive but still claimed the automatic Q spot in 3rd. Her time was 57.16, just off her PB of 56.97. She now runs in the semi-final tomorrow. Box ticked and everything from here is a bonus. Another great Keating quote from Dead Poets Society is "there's a time for daring and there's a time for caution, and a wise man (or woman) understands which is called for". McMahon has already been daring so no need to change that for the semi-final tomorrow and just throw caution to the wind.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Barr Keeps The Kettle Boiled

Thomas Barr did exactly what was asked of him today to quality for the semi-final of the Men's 400H at the Europeans in Zurich. Looking untroubled he beat German champion Felix Franz into second when running 49.79. He has been drawn in SF2 tomorrow and its the tougher of the three semi-finals. He will have local hero Kariem Hussein (49.08), Yoan Decimus (49.60) and Emir Bekric (49.64) around him in the seeded lanes as he has lane 5. Bekric won bronze in Moscow last year and clocked 48.05 but has struggled to find that form. However, I would be a lot more comfortable if the Serb wasn't in the final as he is a big time performer. Two will progress so it will be a challenge and a final in itself. No Irishman has ever qualified for a final in the 400mH at the European Championships. His race is at 17:02 tomorrow. The kettle is boiling nicely. Next question is will we be making tea on Friday night.

Jason Harvey failed to progress from his heat today. He was so unlucky to get a nasty ankle injury in the weeks leading up to the Commonwealth Games. He hasn't offered up any excuses, to his credit, but an injury like that so close to the peak phase of the season was sure to have had an effect. His times before the injury were heading in the right direction especially with his 50.60 at the Morton Games in the middle of July. That progression, if continued, would likely have seen him get close to sub 50 but alas it was not to be. His time of 51.91 placed him 7th in his heat. The 400H is a beautiful event but can be a cruel mistress when you aren't in your top form. Racing on days like that can feel like a slow motion nightmare where you see the race unfold in front of you and you can't do anything about it. Harvey will be back and when the pieces slot together, his day will come.

Sarah Lavin was always going to find this championships a stern test. Unlike Harvey and Barr who competed at the European Seniors in 2012, this was her first senior championship. A massive jump in PB would have been required to progress. She was ranked 29th going in and finished 29th overall when finished 8th in her heat in 13.35. Its her 4th fastest time ever. She started brightly but lost momentum in the latter half and at this level there is no room for error. She expressed disappointment but this will be a great learning experience for an athlete who has shown she can come back from disappointments in the past, particularly after a fall at the World Juniors in 2012 when she returned to medal at the European Juniors 12 months later.

Christine McMahon enters the arena tomorrow at 10.05 for her heat. She is in heat 2 and its first 3 and 4 fastest to go through. She is ranked 20th so could, if it all comes together, progress to the semi-finals. She will need the race of her life and probably will need a PB. It stands at 56.97 and 3rd fastest in her heat is 56.21.

Monday, August 11, 2014

European Championship Preview - Mens 400H and Womens 100H

Zurich kicks off tomorrow and two of our long hurdlers will be some of the first into action. History tells us that an Irishman has never made the final of the Mens 400H at the European Championship but Thomas Barr will be looking to change that. Jason Harvey suffered a cruel and ill-timed injury in the run up to the Commonwealths and will look to regain his mid-season form and progress through to the semi-finals.

There are five heats tomorrow with the first four heats and then fastest four qualifiers progressing to the 24 man semi-finals. Thomas Barr is off in Heat 2 at 10:08 and is the fastest and should progress barring a disaster. His biggest challenger will be German champion Felix Franz who has a PB/SB of 49.34. He was also 5th at the World Juniors in 2012.

Jason Harvey goes in ranked 26th so is just on the bubble of qualification with 24 progressing. He goes in Heat 5 at 10:32 and will have Kariem Hussein (49.08) and Michael Bultheel (49.10) as the big challengers. He will be in with a good chance of the automatic top 4 qualification slot despite being 6th fastest on paper in the heat.

As regards the ultimate destinations of medals, Heat 4 will tell a lot. It contains Niall Flannery (48.80), Timofey Chalyy (49.15) and Emir Bekric (48.05) and while Bekric hasn't got near his PB this season this heat will be the best indication his form. He is reigning World Bronze medalist so is the dark horse in the field as regards form.

Sarah Lavin will make her senior Majors debut at 12:38 in Heat 3 of the Womens 100H. Qualification for the semi-finals will be very difficult with only 16 progressing. Lavin is ranked 29th on SB but still cannot be ruled out. The 16th ranked athlete has an SB of 12.99 but not all athletes run an SB in a championships so a PB run could get her in contention. In some ways that shows the enormity of her task but she has demonstrated great championship temperment in the past so anything is possible.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Top 50 Juvenile Hurdle Clubs - All-Time - Part 3 - Who is #1?

So based on the All-Ireland Juvenile Championships from 2006 to 2014, the top hurdle club in Ireland is still Ferrybank. They are holding off Carrick-on-Suir, the top club in both 2013 and 2014, who pass Leevale who drop to 3rd. Bree, still defy the odds for such a small club, and are 4th. Tir Chonnaill complete the top 5 moving up from 7th.

The full list:

Note: The scores from the All-Ireland's each year are weighted, with the older the year, the lower the score from that year is worth.

1. Ferrybank
2. Carrick-on-Suir
3. Leevale
4. Bree
5. Tir Chonnaill
6. Nenagh
7. GCH
8. SLOT
9. City of Derry
10. DSD

11. St Brendans
12. Annalee
13. Claremorris
14. City of Lisburn
15. KCH
16. Emerald
17. St Abbans
18. Regent House
19. St Josephs
20. Cushinstown
21. Dooneen
22. Greystones
23. Donore
24. Ballymena
25. Menapians
26. Clonliffe
27. Belgooly
28. Celbridge
29. Bandon
30. Craughwell
31. St Peters
32. Lifford
33. Dublin Striders
34. Celtic DCH
35. Glaslough
36. Shercock
37. Crusaders
38. Grange/Fermoy
39. Enniscorthy
40. Tralee Harriers
41. Blarney/Inniscarra
42. Tramore
43. Athenry
44. Riverstick
45. Gowran
46. Gorey
47. Tullamore
48. Midleton
49. Liscarroll
50. Old Abbey

Friday, August 1, 2014

Top 50 Juvenile Hurdle Clubs - All-Time (Part 2)

So today its 30th to 11th in the All-Time Juvenile Hurdle Club Rankings. The Top 10 follows tomorrow, who will be top?

Biggest Movers are:

Lifford - up 28 places to 32nd
Donore - up 17 places to 23rd
Old Abbey - up 13 places to 50th
Crusaders - up 13 places to 37th.
Liscarroll - up 12 places to 49th.

11. St Brendans
12. Annalee
13. Claremorris
14. City of Lisburn
15. KCH
16. Emerald
17. St Abbans
18. Regent House
19. St Josephs
20. Cushinstown
21. Dooneen
22. Greystones
23. Donore
24. Ballymena
25. Menapians
26. Clonliffe
27. Belgooly
28. Celbridge
29. Bandon
30. Craughwell
31. St Peters
32. Lifford
33. Dublin Striders
34. Celtic DCH
35. Glaslough
36. Shercock
37. Crusaders
38. Grange/Fermoy
39. Enniscorthy
40. Tralee Harriers
41. Blarney/Inniscarra
42. Tramore
43. Athenry
44. Riverstick
45. Gowran
46. Gorey
47. Tullamore
48. Midleton
49. Liscarroll
50. Old Abbey