Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reynolds The Underdog But He Usually Beats Guys He Shouldn't

Ben Reynolds opens his account in Beijing in a matter of hours (4:47am). He is drawn in Heat 4. There are 5 heats with 4 from each heat progressing to the semi-final along with the 4 fastest losers. He is 7th fastest in the heat so while it will be very challenging to progress, he has regularly proven to be able to beat the startlist.

Here is a look at his rivals.

Greggmar Swift (BAR)
PB & SB  13.28
World University Games champ and Pan-Am Games 4th this season.

Jhoanis Portilla (CUB)
PB & SB 13.30
5th in the Pan-Am Games and ran his PB only 3 weeks ago

Hansle Parchment (JAM)
PB 12.94 SB 13.08
Olympic Bronze medalist from London 2012, #10 on All-Time list.
Has raced in 2 months so uncertain on his form or condition

Milan Ristic (SRB)
PB & SB 13.50
Serbian record holder but form has dipped since he ran that in May not going under 13.70 since.

Aleec Harris (USA)
PB and SB 13.11
Ran his PB in Paris in ealy July. Probably the form man in the heat but it is his first major championships.

Nicholas Hough (AUS)
PB & SB 13.41
Ran his PB when winning the Australian Championship in March. Since the European season has started has struggled to get back to that level but say a return somewhat in Leuven 3 weeks ago with 13.64.

Mathias Buhler (GER)
PB 13.34 SB 13.43
His PB comes from 2012 and has been inconsistent this season and despite having a faster SB than Reynolds he is beatable.

Calling it, it looks like Harris, Swift and Portilla. The 4th spot should be Parchment but, it may be wishfull thinking, there is some element of doubt as he hasn't raced sinced June. If Reynolds gets a PB, I would suspect he will be in the hunt for a semi-final spot.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Barr Goes Down Fighting But Ultimately Falls Just Short

Thomas Barr bowed out of the World Championship semi-finals today when finishing fourth in his semi-final in 48.71, his 2nd fastest time ever and 0.05 off his own Irish record. He finished 11th overall. He is only 23 and to put that in context our two greatest hurdlers of recent years, Derval O' Rourke and Susan Smith, were both 28 before they did better than that on an outdoor global stage. By the time he is 28, it will be the 2020 Olympic Games, his best years are ahead of him.
But not to get stuck into the looking down the track and into the future too much and to focus on and celebrate the now, he went down fighting. He attacked the first half of the race like never before and while this may have dimmed his withering run off the last somewhat he was still brave and attacking that last and picking off those with a bigger lactic bear on their backs.
He pushed 13 strides to hurdle 6, transitioned to 14 strides at hurdle 7 and he suggested he had to reach somewhat to keep his pattern at hurdle 8. His last hurdle was strong and brave and while Tumuiti and Clement were probably uncatcheable it looked like he would take Chalyy on the line. It was not to be and it was 4th in 48.71. With only two fastest loser spots and two semi-finals to come it was going to be a big ask to expect him to hang on. As it happened it took four PBs in the next semi (including three Europeans) to knock him out. The final semi-final had European Champion Kariem Hussein only managing third and also losing out.
From an Irish sprinter/hurdler perspective, Barr has been exposed to such tenacious competition where he is in the mix and a contender at a very early age. Considering the learnings he took from his 'failure' in Zurich 12 months ago, there is no doubt he will learn and build from this and be even stronger again 12 months from now. Just in time for Rio.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Barr Ticks The Box And Moves To World Semi-Final

In some ways watching the Thomas Barr's heat today was like that episode of Only Fools And Horses (forward to about 1:40) where a women is being mugged by a gang. It isn't looking good but then out of shot initially and then through the fog come Batman and Robin (or Delboy and Rodney) to save the day.

Drawn in Lane 9, and eaten up early by Yasmani Escobor, Barr was out of shot as all sorts of carnage was taking place off the tenth and in the middle lanes with pre-championship favourite Bershawn Jackson (he goes by the nickname Batman by the way) messing up his stride pattern and chickening out of his last hurdle attack and losing all momentum.

There was a second or two where breaths were held as the now customary run-in charge didn't look like it was coming but thankfully it did and it brought Barr from probably 7th to 3rd in the space of 30metres to claim an automatic qualifier.

While the lane draw has not been good for the semi-final, lane 9, his draw of rivals has and Barr should have no fears as he enters the arena tomorrow. Full line is Barr, Clement (USA), Magi (EST), Whyte (JAM), Tumuiti (KEN), Lahoulou (ALG), Bultheel (BEL) and Chalyy (RUS). He has beaten 4 of those guys this season (Magi, Lahoulou, Bultheel, Chalyy) while has a faster SB than Whyte and Tumuiti. Only two will progress to the final so it will be cut-throat and the field is very evenly matched.

Clement will start as favourite while Magi is probably the next based on his PB two weeks ago at the Estonian Championships. There has been a Kenyan breakthrough at these championship over hurdles and as a result Tumuiti cannot be ruled out while Jamaican Whyte is a phenomenal consistent performer. In fact any 2 from 7 could go through with Bultheel the one likely not to figure.

So, for tomorrow don't panic if he isn't in the box seat as he enters the home straight but he will need to ensure he is within shouting distance off the last to unleash that withering kick.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dunmore Beast Set To Raid Birds Nest

Thomas Barr goes in the first round of the 400m hurdles in the World Championships in Beijing tomorrow at 10:35. He goes in heat 4 of 5 with first 4 and 4 fastest going through to the 24 man semi-final.

He is 3rd fastest on both SB and PB in the heat now that Jack Green has withdrawn with sciatica. Bershawn Jackson will start as favourite in the heat while old foe, Rasmus Magi, will bring an element of familiarity to Barr.

Barr has raced Jackson once previously in the Diamond Doha league but Magi is a much more familar rival with tomorrow being their 8th head to head. Magi leads 4-3 but Barr has had the upper hand of late with victories in the 3 of the last 4.

Progress to the semi-final will see a huge task with 3 heats of the first 2 and 2 fastest going through to the final.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Top Juvenile Club - Top 25

The full list of Top 25 hurdle clubs from this years Glohealth All-Irelands

1 Carrick-on-Suir
3 Leevale
4 Claremorris
6 Greystones and District
7 Dooneen
8 Moycarkey Coolcroo
10  Liscarroll
11= Cushinstown
11= City of Lisburn
11= Ratoath
11= Enniscorthy
15= Lifford
15= Finn Valley
15= Menapians
18= Crookstown Millview
18= Annalee
18= Naas
21 North Down
22= City of Derry Spartans
22= Emerald
22= Nenagh Olympic
22= Ennis Track
22= Athenry
22= Shercock
22= Lake District

Dunmore Beast Delivers In The Far East

Now the dust has settled, it is a good time to reflect on Thomas Barr's great run in Korea. Some observations:

1. He learns from his mistakes. It is always a bad sign when athletes offer up excuses for a bad performance and usually external factors. After Barr's disappointment in Zurich last year he offered up no 'blame someone or something else' excuses. He went silently back to the drawing board. 

2. He is more race toughened. In Zurich he was probably under cooked. This season he already had two Diamond League races under his belt as well as a selection of less high profile races that had him primed for Korea to ensure a Zurich wouldn't re-occur.

3. His kick off the last. He is lethal off the last and it's likely nobody in the world can match him right now. In a race if he is within shooting distance off the last he is in with a serious chance.

4. His training group are flying. Five other members of his training group have qualified for major age group championships this season. One of those is not Paul Byrne but Byrne's move from Dublin to Limerick last winter has served to give Barr a serious training partner over hurdles. The last time he had a training partner so close was his breakthrough season when Timmy Crowe was in the setup.

5. He is great craic. He seems to be really enjoying himself and because of that he is probably the most popular Irish athlete of the social media age. He proves you don't have to be a boring spongebob squarepants to be a world beater.

6. He is healthy. A pretty much uninterrupted winter of training means he is probably in the shape of his life.

7. His coaches. Hayley and Drew Harrison are on the second generation of great Irish athletes after their successful group of the late nineties, early noughties. They have many Olympians, been involved in many records. They are now the top speed coaches in the country.

8. The family genes. His sister Jessie has been a very positive influence on his career. If she can get healthy she can follow her little brother. After all she is the only Olympian in the house.

9. The chickens. Martina's chickens are rumoured to be the secret of his success, such is the nutritional value of the eggs. Egg production has stalled by all accounts as the Korean success has gone to their heads.

10. In school Thomas Barr never broke 56 seconds. He is now a world class animal. You gotta believe.

Long Hurdles Domination Sees Carrick-on-Suir As Top Dogs

Four wins over the long hurdles on the final day of competition at the Glohealth All-Ireland Championships in Tullamore saw Carrick-on-Suir crowned the Top Juvenile Hurdle Club in Ireland for the 3rd year in a row.

A haul of 5 golds, 1 silver and 2 bronze in the hurdle events saw them take a commanding win from DSD in 2nd with Leevale in 3rd. Claremorris were top from the west in 4th while Greystones and District had a super championships in 6th. Also great to see Liscarroll break into the top 10 after several years of moving up the table.

1 - Carrick-on-Suir
2 - DSD
3 - Leevale
4 - Claremorris
5 - GCH
6 - Greystones and District
7 - Dooneen
8 - Moycarkey Coolcroo
9 - SLOT
10 - Liscarroll

Full list to follow as well as the All-Time rankings (from 2006) updated.