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Gregan and Barr find Russia without love

Thomas Chamney reflects on Brian Gregan and Jessie Barr’s – two of Ireland’s main medal hopes – performances at the World Student Games in Kazan, Russia where they finished 5th and 6th respectively and looks ahead to their next challenges. 

Medals hard to come by

Medals proved tough to come by at the
Central Stadium, Kazan for Team Ireland at the World Student Games as both
Jessie Barr and Brian Gregan fell short of bringing home some bacon.

Barr raced over the 400m hurdles while
Gregan took to the track in the 400m flat equivalent. For Barr it proved a
tough evening as she was some way back off the first four clocking 57.65 for 6th
place.

Drawn in the difficult outside lane, she
was well-positioned 250m into the race but gradually saw the front four pull
away from her as she battled grimly towards the finish.

Ukraine’s Titimus claimed an impressive
gold in a time of 54.64. It would have required a personal best of some
magnitude for Barr to claim a medal as third place clocked a time well over a
second faster than Barr has ever run before (Davydova from Russia in 54.79).

For Gregan, the solid gold medal favourite
after impressively winning his way through the preliminary rounds, a 5th
place finish in 45.83 was all he could muster on the night. Neither will be
overly ebullient about how World Students has panned out for them.

Since departing Limerick for life in
Malcolm Arnold’s elite hit squad of sprint hurdlers in Bath, Barr has yet to
truly turn the ignition key in her 2013 campaign that has lingered on the
fringes between decent and mediocre.

Her stated goal prior to this season was to
win gold at the World Students but by the time the European Team Championships
had rolled around she had downgraded this to a medal of any colour.

Most would have felt that based on how she
had been performing – a lane in the final would mark a successful championship
and from that point of view, it can be deemed a success. But for anyone
watching the action, the sight of Barr slumped trackside after the race,
clearly distressed with her performance, will reflect the faded hopes of this
talented athlete.

The margin of her defeat does not augur
well for her chase for the B standard for the Moscow and it remains to be seen
whether or not she can book a seat on the plane. An adjustment period was
always likely for Barr and we must not jump the gun on whether or not her
decision to leave the Harrisons was incorrect. 2014 was always going to be the
true litmus test for whether or not she has adapted to Arnold’s philosophy.
Until then all Barr can do is keep fighting to start that engine we all know
she has.

As for Gregan, he too will not be satisfied
with his run. He was in the dice up until 120m to go. Reaching for 5th
gear, he found nothing in the tank as Henriques of Brazil blazed the trail out
in front. As Henriques faltered a blanket finish ensued but Gregan never quite
looked like getting in the medal mix.

It would be unfair to label his performance
as a failure but the fact is that Gregan himself has publicly stated that his
goal for this season was coming home with a medal from Kazan. He has not
attained his goal and therefore we cannot call his Kazan experience a success.
While the AAI twitter account can claim that we could not have asked for more
from Gregan, the man himself will be asking for more as an athlete of his
caliber has understandably high expectations.

Indeed his post on twitter reeks of a man
not happy with how the final went stating that his run was a ‘poor effort’.
With so many sub 46 clockings this season, as well as a B standard for Moscow,
he was extremely consistent in 2013. But when it was required of him to step up
even further in the final he was proven to be slightly lacking.

Both bronze medalist and fourth placer came
up with personal bests (Maitland of Jamaica and Omelko of Poland) while Gregan
still ran a solid 45.83 it just wasn’t enough to get it done. He himself will
know that better days lie ahead and he quickly needs to refocus on Moscow and
attaining a berth in the semi-finals there. An achievement of that magnitude
would mark an even greater step forward on his road to the top table of world
quarter miling.

By Thomas Chamney

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Feidhlim Kelly

Feidhlim Kelly

Con Houlihan once told me that tomorrow is now. In taking on this venture I’ve started to try and put his words into action.

I worked for Con from 2007 till his passing in 2012 taking down his copy and a whole lot more. I have a Con Houlihan section which will go in to more depth on that.

I’m a long-time contributor to the Irish Runner magazine and am also working for the Irish Examiner.

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