Belfast Telegraph

Reid and Barr have sights set on historic Euro glory

 

By Roy Harris

Chances like this don't come around often, and rest assured that at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin tonight, Irish duo Leon Reid and Thomas Barr intend not to waste it.

Since the European Championships was first held in Turin in 1934, no Irishman has won a medal in a sprint event, but in Barr and Reid they have two athletes capable of defying the odds.

Reid will go in the men's 200m final at 8.05pm, and the Bath-born sprinter knows all about waiting.

He applied to switch his allegiance from Britain to Ireland in 2016, a process that was only approved days before Reid flew to Berlin.

"When I put on this vest, it's like putting on a super suit," said Reid, moments after powering through to the men's 200m final last night, clocking 20.38 in his semi-final to finish a close runner-up to world champion Ramil Guliyev.

Reid qualifies to represent Ireland as his mother was born in Belfast, while his foster mother, who was in the stadium last night, is from Wexford.

"My mum took off work to fly out here and see me, so I couldn't let her down.

"Everyone's going on about times, but I'm just here to have fun and execute and personal bests will come."

Given the endless controversy over transfers of allegiance, not everyone has been supportive of Reid running in an Irish vest, although he chooses not to listen to voices of dissent.

"I don't let that sort of stuff get to me. The people that are counting on me, that's who I deliver for. I don't deliver for anyone else who sits behind screens tweeting me. I worry about my mum, my coach, my Irish family - the people who matter to me."

Reid has drawn lane eight for tonight's final, where he believes a medal may be on the cards.

"I'll give it my all and I'll be going for it no matter what. If there's a medal there to be won, I'll be in the mix."

A little under an hour earlier, there's every chance that Barr could beat him to the punch, the 26-year-old going in the men's 400m hurdles final at 7.15pm GMT.

Barr is also drawn in lane eight, which means he will be running blind from the gun, but it's far from a fatal blow to his chances given American Kori Carter won the women's world title from the same draw last year.

Barr needed to run all out in his semi-final on Tuesday to advance in second place, clocking 49.10 behind Turkey's Yasmani Copello and, while he will take to his marks as an outsider, he's not ruling anything out.

At the 2016 Olympics, Barr defied 84 years of history by becoming the first Irishman since Bob Tisdall to make an Olympic sprint final, and he believes he can end the same drought with a medal tonight.

"I hope so," he said. "I think there's just as much chance of me winning a medal as not. Once you're in the final it's all to play for and anything can happen."

Meanwhile, Marcus Lawler failed to make it to the semis after he finished fifth in his heat in 20.80 seconds, some way below his recent personal best of 20.40 seconds.

That heat was won by Lykourgos-Stefanos Tsakonas of Greece in 20.49 seconds. Lawler was unlucky that two athletes with slower times made the semis.

A downcast Lawler said: "I'm bitterly disappointed with that. I had a target here to make the final and I just didn't cut it."

QUB's Emma Mitchell raced under oppressively hot conditions in the 10,000m. She maintained a useful pace to 5,000m, which she completed in 16 minutes and 24 seconds. Thereafter she faded and eventually finished in 34 minutes, nine seconds.

The race was won by defending champion Yasemin Can in 31 minutes, 43 seconds.

Two Northern Ireland athletes have withdrawn from the Championships.

Marathon runner Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) has an Achilles' tendon problem, while high hurdler Ben Reynolds (North Down) has an aggregated back issue.

Belfast Telegraph

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