Wednesday, 19th September 2018
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European bronze for Thomas Barr in Berlin.

What a week it was for Olympian Thomas Barr in Berlin last week at the European Championships culminating with him taking the bronze medal in the 400 metres hurdles final in a World Class field of runners on Thursday. Having competed in three previous European Championships and failing to make the final he went into these Championships full of hope plus a fair degree of confidence based on the fact that he was getting better in each race he ran this season. On top of that he was ranked number five of the thirty eight athletes entered and for the first time in these Championships he was straight into the semi final as were the other top twelve ranked athletes.The remainder had to go into heats on day 1 with a total of twelve eventually joining the others in three semi finals on Tuesday.

Semi final

In the three semi finals on Tuesday two from each would automatically go into the final plus the two fastest losers overall. Thomas was in the last of the three and was running from lane five with one of the favourites Copello beside him. He broke well and was well placed but then seemed to tone down a little heading for home and he suddenly had company beside him Sensing the danger he increased the pace considerably and comfortably secured second spot and automatic qualification behind Copello for Thursday's final. After the semi Thomas revealed he had been a little nervous before it which would be unusual for him.

Final

In Thursdays final Thomas was drawn in lane eight in a race that resembled an Olympic final. Opposing him were the World Champion and favourite Warholm from Norway with the fastest time of the finalists, the Olympic bronze medallist Copello a Cuban running for Turkey, Magi from Estonia another Olympic finalist, Dobek from Poland a former European u 23 champion and an up and coming Frenchman Vaillant. Some were questioning the lane draw Thomas had but he made light of it himself. Lining up for the final he was smiling and looking quite relaxed being introduced to the crowd, he started brilliantly and ran with great gusto all through. Approaching the final bend he was in third spot but then the Frenchman came up to his side and went slightly ahead for a few strides, its then we saw the real Thomas as with great determination he regained third spot with the finish in sight. In front of him Warholm led Copello and they crossed the line in that order and a closing Thomas took the bronze medal in a seasons best time of 48.31 seconds his second best time ever and his beaming smile told it all after crossing the line and then to be wrapped in the Irish flag.Thomas has added a European bronze medal to the World University gold medal he won in 2015 and becomes Ireland's first sprint athlete to win a European medal. Who knows in the years ahead he may also add a World and Olympic medal to his collection, the Worlds are next year. The full result of the final showed that seven out of the eight finalists had run season's best times,the winner in 47.64 had set a new European u23 record and the runner up a new Turkish record in 47.81. Thomas has joined a small band of Irish athletes who secured medals at the European Outdoor Championships.These include Sonia O'Sullivan three gold and two silver, Eamon Coghlan one gold, Frank Murphy one silver, and Ronnie Delany, Mark Carroll, Robert Heffernan, Mark English and Ciara Mageean one bronze each. Its worth mentioning on an occasion like this that Jessie Barr a sister of Thomas's was the first member of her family to reach a European 400 metres hurdles final. She did this in 2012 where she finished eighth and was also an Olympian before Thomas, and also we remember Ireland's greatest female 400 metres hurdler Olympian Susan Smith Waterford AC a finalist in both the World and European Championships and just missing out on an Olympic final and Ben Kiely Ferrybank won a European Youth Olympic 400 metres hurdle title. There were many other good performances by Irish athletes in Berlin with Leon Reid making the 200 metres final and others highly placed. Unfortunately Niamh Whelan did not make the final four selected for the relay.

All Ireland Masters Championships on Saturday

Tullamore is the venue on Saturday next for the Irish Life Health National Masters Track and Field Championships for men and women in various age groups and many from Waterford clubs will participate. The first event begins at 11 am and in a very long day of competition it will go on until close to 7 pm.

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