Ray Flynn – Running Shoes IT has often been said that excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude. This was proved to me last weekend in the beautiful city of Saransk in Russia where I was privileged to be part of the management team of our Irish race walkers in the IAAF World Race Walking Cup.
Of the 11 athletes from Ireland who competed, four of them finished in the top 16 in the world. One of those athletes Colin Griffin of Ballinamore achieved the Olympic Qualifying time when finishing 15th.
The story of Colin Griffin’s Olympic bid is a story of sporting excellence at the highest level. Going into the race in Saransk, Colin had some bad luck in his four previous attempts at qualification. Disqualifications and failures to finish races in the past two years had wrecked his confidence. Saransk was truly the last chance saloon with this race the last race that he could attain the qualifying mark in.
What a setting it was with up to 100,000 people lining the 2k loop set in front of the most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen. This is a race walking-mad city where the Olympic champions, male and female, reside and the Russian centre of excellence (for race walking) is based there.
The pressure on Colin showed in the first 10k and he already had received two red cards at that stage. A third card and he was out. However this north-west athlete is made of stern stuff and the further he went in the race the better he looked. He walked through the marathon distance of 42k in 3 hours 15 minutes, a time a lot of Sligo runners can identify with. He went on to cross the 50k line in 3 hours 52 minutes to book his Olympic ticket. A truly awesome performance in 30 degree temperatures. True sporting excellence.
Sporting excellence was also very much in evidence on Thursday last at the Connacht Schools Track & Field Championships. A lot of Sligo athletes qualified for the All-Ireland finals in Tullamore on June 4. It will be hard to better last year’s great tally of medals, but the young Sligo athletes are in flying form and I’m looking forward to the action in Tullamore.
Well done to Emmett Dunleavy who followed up an easy Sligo 8k victory with third place in the 3,000 metres steeplechase at a Dublin graded meeting in Santry on Wednesday last.
Another Sligo AC athlete, Eimear O’Brien, was in Manchester on Saturday evening and ran a storming 5,000 metres on the track to record a time of 17 minutes 05 seconds.
Meanwhile, at the AAI Games in Santry on Sunday the three Sligo athletes competing recorded personal best times. Zak Irwin once again showed his potential with a stunning 22.24 seconds in the 200 metres and one hour later recorded another PB, 11.16 seconds, for the 100 metres. Awesome running for a 15-year-old! Killian O’Connor took a second off his personal best in the 3,000 metres, recording a time of 9 minutes 9 seconds. Ashan Patil shaved a fraction of a second off his time in the 800 metres. Another good day for Sligo athletes. Sport was put into perspective with the untimely death of young Shane Gilroy of Hazelwood last week. Shane was a keen sportsman who competed in athletics as a juvenile athlete. He will be sadly missed by the sporting community in Calry and Sligo but most of all by his family. May he rest in peace.