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Northern Ireland stars off to Tokyo, but stands will be sitting empty

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Big stage: Eilish Flanagan will represent Ireland at the Olympics. Credit: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Big stage: Eilish Flanagan will represent Ireland at the Olympics. Credit: INPHO/Bryan Keane

©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Big stage: Eilish Flanagan will represent Ireland at the Olympics. Credit: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Northern Ireland athletes are well represented in the Irish team setting off for the Tokyo Olympics, after The Olympic Federation of Ireland released their line-up yesterday.

Donaghmore’s Eilish Flanagan will be delighted with her steeplechase selection, coming after her NI record of nine minutes, 40.68 seconds.

The 24-year-old Euro Cross Country team silver medallist secured her place with a gutsy runner-up spot in the recent Irish Championships behind Michelle Finn of Leevale, who has also qualified for Tokyo.

Sprinter Leon Reid has also been selected, while Ciara Mageean is on the plane following her outstanding 10th place in the 2019 World Championship 1,500m where she recorded an NI record of 4.00.15. Triple European medallist Mageean has been racing sparingly since then with the Olympics being her exclusive priority.

Another triple Euro medallist selected is 800m specialist Mark English from Finn Valley, who qualified just before the deadline with an Irish record of 1.44.71 in Spain.

Three NI marathon runners - Paul Pollock, Kevin Seaward and Stephen Scullion - get automatic qualification places as they fall within the required time of two hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds.

Fionnuala McCormack and Aoife Cooke will take the start line in the women’s event.

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Meanwhile, fans will be banned from the pandemic-postponed event following a state of emergency, Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa announced yesterday.

The ban was announced by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organisers, reducing the Games to a made-for-TV event.

Fans from abroad were banned months ago, and the new measures announced by Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga will clear venues around Tokyo of any fans at all.


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