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Eilish Flanagan knows she will need personal best just to reach steeplechase final



Eilish Flanagan. Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Eilish Flanagan. Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane

©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Eilish Flanagan. Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Tyrone’s Eilish Flanagan will face the ultimate athletics test tomorrow when she competes in the first round of the Olympic steeplechase in Tokyo.

The 24-year-old from Gortin is in the form of her life following her Northern Ireland record of 9:40.68 back in May in Oregon, which took two seconds off Kerry O'Flaherty’s record and placed her in prime position for Olympic selection.

Last December the Colorado-based student also set a Northern Irish record over 5,000 metres with a time of 15:40, and she is also a silver medallist from the European Under-23 Team Championships.

Irish compatriot Michelle Finn of Leevale is also racing. She is a Rio Olympian and recently ran a time of 9:29.25, which is only a second slower than the Irish record.

Both, however, will need to be in personal best form to make Tuesday’s Olympic final as the fastest athlete this year is Kenya’s Norah Jeruto with a time of just over nine minutes.

Meanwhile, Ferrybank’s Thomas Barr progressed to tomorrow’s semi-finals of the 400 metres hurdles.

The 28-year-old, who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics, finished second in his first round heat with a time of 49.02 as world record holder Karsten Warholm crossed the line first in 48.65.

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The fact that the Norwegian athlete appeared to jog over the final 40 metres hinted that another world record is not out of the question in Tuesday’s final, with Warholm holding the existing record at 46.70.

For Barr, his main objective is simply survival from tomorrow’s semis where he will need to be approaching his season’s best this year of 48.39. In Rio, he was just outside the medals with an Irish record of 47.97.

After his race he said: “Job done. Today was about coming out and getting myself into the semi-finals. I probably dropped a little concentration at the top bend but I had enough in reserve to come down in the home straight strong.”

The Irish excelled in the inaugural 400m mixed relay event where they were eventually given second in their heat in a national record of 3:12.88, with the team consisting of Cillian Greene, Phil Healy, Sophie Becker and Chris O’Donnell, who produced a storming finish.

Belgium won in 3:12.75 after the USA and Dominican Republic were disqualified, with the final scheduled for later today.

There was disappointment for the trio of Irish women in the 800m, who fell well short of their record breaking performances earlier in the season.

Louise Shanahan (2:03.57), Nadia Power (2:03.74) and Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (2:04.62) all finished well down in their races in seventh position. Their times were a lot slower than their personal bests, although even this might not have been sufficient to qualify further in the fierce competition.

Great Britain's Alex Bell, who ran under 1:59 this year at the Mary Peters Track, progressed despite a fourth place in 2:00.96. However, GB’s Gemma Reekie won her heat with the second overall fastest heat time of 1:59.97, while team-mate Keely Hodgkinson also qualified in second in 2:01.59.

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