Londoner Alex Wright has confirmed – after crossing the line to win the Woodies DIY Irish 30km Walk Championships in Dublin –- that he is switching international allegiances and declaring for Ireland.
The 23-year-old from Streatham, who competed for Britain in the 20km at the World Championships in Moscow last summer, moved to Cork early last month to train with Ireland's World 50km champion Rob Heffernan and Donegal Olympian Brendan Boyce.
Wright qualifies because his father is from Tyrone, but he only got his Irish citizenship last Friday, so his switch has yet to be processed by the International Associations of Athletics Federations (IAAF)
The fact that he has already competed internationally means he will have to sit out representative competition for a year minimum – probably dated from his last international appearance on August 11 last – so he will not be eligible to compete for Ireland next summer and will miss the 2014 European Championships.
But he is keen to become part of Ireland's world-class race walking team and has committed his future to the green vest.
Yesterday was his first race over 30km and he won in 2hrs 13mins 57secs, with Letterkenny's 50km specialist Boyce a minute behind him. Heffernan, who did not race yesterday because of a back niggle, said Wright has "great potential."
Wright used to train with Boyce in Britain's race walking centre in the University of Leeds, but said training on his own in the past year has left him isolated and a lack of recognition for race walking in Britain has contributed to his switch of vests.
"The chance to train with the best walkers in the world is a fantastic opportunity," he said.
"Great Britain had a team of 60 at the Worlds last year, but I was the only one with an 'A' standard not picked initially, I had to appeal it to get selected.
"My world ranking before Moscow was 91st, so they didn't pick me because they didn't see me as a 'top eight' potential for the next four years. I was actually the first British (male) walker at a Worlds since 1996."
Wright, who did his PB of 1:23.05 in Switzerland last March, subsequently finished 31st.
Elsewhere, Fionnuala Britton bounced back from losing her European Cross-Country crown two weeks ago by returning to the podium in Brussels yesterday, when she was third in the IAAF Lotto Cross Cup.
The women's 6km race was won by Holland's new Ethiopian-born European u-23 champion Sifan Hassan in 19:38.