So could Fionnuala Britton have done better than bronze at the European Indoors? Maybe. But indoors is different – as Brian Gregan found to his cost.
What is certain is that Britton’s determined performance bodes well for the World Cross-Country Championships in Poland in just over two weeks time.
There Britton hopes to emulate Sonia O’Sullivan, Paul Radcliffe and Benita Johnson by taking on the east Africans and beating them.
Most recently, American champion Shalene Flanagan finished third at the World Championships held in Spain two years ago. It can be done.
Britton won’t be underestimating the enormity of the challenge. In the past two decades, only Portugal in 1994 has spoiled the Kenyan and Ethiopian party when it comes to the team gold and every single member of either of their teams is a threat.
Kenya has dominated since 2008, ending a seven-year Ethiopian winning streak, and the Ethiopians are doing everything they can to regain supremacy.
For a start, they’ve recalled four times champion Tirunesh Dibaba who hasn’t run cross-country since finishing fourth at the 2010 championships, coincidentally also held in Bydogszcz, Poland.
Now aged 27, Dibaba isn’t quite the force she used to be although she successfully defended her 10,000m title at the London Olympics last summer. Last month, she opened her 2013 season with a solid victory over two miles indoors in Boston.
Younger sister Genzebe Dibaba, twice world junior champion, is named as a reserve to the team after running a scorching 8 mins 26.95 secs for 3000m in Stockholm. Leading the squad is steeplechaser Hiwot Ayalew, winner of the Ethiopian trial.
With the World Cross now held only every second year, Kenya’s Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot won in Punta Umbria, Spain two years ago, beating her team mate Lenet Masai and Shalene Flanagan. None of the three will run in Poland; the American, who won the US trial, because she is running the Boston Marathon this year.
Fionnuala Britton finished a creditable 16th two years ago, 87 seconds behind the winner. She was third non-African and second European. Since then, she has shown her ability to run hard and fast by winning two European titles and running close to 32 minutes for fourth over 10,000m at last year’s European Track and Field Championships.
We could be in for something special.
Clonliffe’s Sergiu Ciobanu won the men’s race for a third year at the Ballycotton ’10’ beating Kilkenny’s Brian Maher and Mick Clohisey of Raheny, who had returned from his German base for the race.
Despite a strong headwind from six to eight miles, Ciobanu’s time of 49 mins 17 secs was three seconds faster than his winning time of last year. Maher narrowly failed to break 50 minutes for a personal best, while Clohisey also improved on his time.
Maria McCambridge was first woman ahead of Borrisokane’s Siobhan O’Doherty and Claire McCarthy of St Finbarr’s. Her time of 55 mins 1 sec was only 13 seconds slower than her course record breaking run of 2012 and the second fastest time ever on the course.
East Cork beat defending champions Raheny Shamrock for the men’s team prize, while St Finbarr’s got the better of Leevale in both cases by a single point.
Veterans ruled at the Meath Spring Half Marathon, with Clonliffe’s Gary O’Hanlon and Pauline Curley of Tullamore leading home an entry of over 900 in two races. Next big race in Co Meath is the Eirgrid Dunboyne 4-mile on Sunday March 24.
After a stint in Australia, Paul Robinson of St Coca’s ran 3:42.87 to win the 1500m at the Connacht Indoors in Athlone. His time knocked 10 seconds off his personal best and is just off John Traver’s stadium record of 3:42.562. At the England Athletics combined events championships in Sheffield, Elizabeth Morland of Cushinstown took a bronze medal with a total of 3, 288 points.
Some good results from a strong Irish contingent at the Scottish U20 and 18 Indoors in Glasgow, with wins for Kilkenny trio Cliodhna Manning W20 60m, Sarah Kate Lacey W18 60m and Lorraine O’Shea W20 long jump, and for Sarah Buggy of St Abban’s W20 triple jump and DSD’s Jade Leahy W20 400m.
Dublin masters cross-country champion Mick Traynor of Raheny made his first visit to the Malahide Park Run a record-breaking one when he came home in 15 min 39 secs. – the fastest time ever in Malahide. Not bad for an M45! On Saturday, Parkrun moves to the southside of Dublin, with the first 5km taking place in Marlay Park. As with Malahide, entry is free, but anyone planning to run should register in advance and then print off the bar code they are sent. See www.parkrun.ie/marlay/