Sunday, October 26, 2008

CORRECTIONS AND ADDITIONS

INEVITABLY, the gremlins did a bit of damage to "Faster, Higher, Stronger" . Corrections and amendments are welcome and will appear here:
*Jim Hogan started the 10,000m as well as the marathon at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo; he failed to finish in either.
* Michael "Sonny" Murphy from Co Clare failed to finish the 3000m steeplechase at the 1932 Los Angeles Games due to heat exhaustion. TG4 has broadcast an Irish langauge drama documentary based on his life.
* Jenny McCauley 2004 mountain biker, spells her surname with a capital "C" (which we knew...sorry Jenny!)
* Derek Burnett, clay target shooter finished joint 7th, not 9th at the 2004 Olympics (he was listed ninth in order so an honest error)
* On page 264, and 265, we list the 1948 football team without first names, for which we hunted high and low without success. We now know three: Dongeal men Lt Patsy McGonagle (father of the longtime Irish athletics manager) and Emmet McLoughlin,  and Brendan O'Kelly, the youngest member of the team at 18.
* On page 248, race walker Olive Loughnane is missing from the 2000 team.
* Jonno Devlin, rowing with the Irish heavyweight 4 in Beijing, competed for GBR in 2004
*Alan Campbell, fifth in the single sculls final in Beijing, also rowed for GB in 2004.
* Northern Ireland footballer Denis Kelleher competed for the British team at the 1948 Olympics.
* Derrick Barton was 7th in the modern pentathlon in 1924, competing for GB; his son Christopher later rowed in the British eights boat that took silver for GB in 1948.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DOUBLE GOLD FOR SMYTH

Ireland’s Jason Smyth won the 200m (T13) in a new world record time of 21.43sec, destroying the mark he set in qualifying yesterday by 0.38 of a second.

Orla Barry set a new Paralympic record of 27.08 for her category in qualifying for the discus final, but fouled all three throws in the final.
Ireland's 7-a-side football have to be content with sixth place after losing to the Netherlands 2-4 in their 5th/ 6th place classification match. This is still an big improvement on their eight place of four years ago.
Two goals in four minutes from Finbarr O'Riordan and Gary Messett gave Ireland a 2-1 lead after 11 minutes, but the Dutch fought back to claim a deserved victory.

On the track, Roy Guerin T53 was sixth in his 100m heat.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Another World Record for Smyth

Jason Smyth broke his own world record when he clocked 21.81 to win his 200m heat at the Paralympic Games.
Russian Alexey Labzin, who Smyth beat into second in Saturday's 100m final, won the other heat for visually impaired athletes.

Swim Silver for McDonald

Swimming sensation Darragh Mc Donald, aged just 14, won Paralympic silver in the 400m freestyle (S6 class) in the Water Cube in Beijing.
McDonald had qualified second fastest from the morning's two heats, when he swam a massive PB and new Irish record of 5:13.68 to win heat one.
In front of his parents Caroline and Derek, many Irish team mates, and a packed Water Cube, the Gorey swimmer destroyed his morning's record when he hit the wall in 5:09.75 for second place.
Race winner in a stunning world record time of 4:48.31 was the reigning world champion Anders Olsson of Sweden. McDonald, a member of the Asgard Swim Club in Arklow where he is coached by John Keely was in second place by the first turn and continued to stretch his lead over the next 300m. By the finish, he had 10.7 seconds to spare over Matt Whorwood of Great Britain who took bronze.
“Coming here my objective was to make a final. I thought that is as close as I thought I would get to anything. I never thought I’d get this near this fast. It’s great; I never thought anything like this could happen,” McDonald said after.
His unexpected medal brings the Irish tally to four at these Games after Jason Smyth's sensational 100m (T13) win on the track on Saturday, Micheal McKillop's 800m (T37) victory on Wednesday, and boccia bronze medal winner Gay Shelly on Tuesday last.
Also in the 400m (S6) , Johnny Cummings swam in the same heat as McDonald, finishing fifth in a personal best time of 5:50.54, nearly three seconds off his previous mark.

Setting up a play-off for fifth position against the Netherlands was the Irish 7-1-side football team who beat China 4-1. Goal scorers for Ireland were Gary Messett after ten minutes, Alan O’Hara 12 minutes, and both O'Hara and Messett again early in the second half. Only in the final five minutes did the Chinese pull one back.
“I can’t wait to play Holland now. I am sure Holland were up there in the stands and would look at the second half and saying we can beat these. They won’t find it easy though. Fifth or sixth place now, our performance here is an improvement on Athens. We achieved what we set out to do and considering the week we’ve had, it’s brilliant,” said manager Paul Cassin.
Cassin’s Irish team finished eighth at the Athens Games four years ago.

Irish flag bearer Patrice Dockery concluded her Paralympic career on the track when she finished sixth in the second heat of the 200m (T53 Class) in a time of 35.38secs.
“I gave it everything, I have no regrets”, said Dockery, one of Ireland’s most distinguished and well loved Paralympians. A former European and World championship medal winner, Dockery retires after 23 years representing Ireland on the international stage.

In the spectacular Ming’s Tomb road cycling venue, the last of Ireland’s bikes were in action today. Catherine Walsh with sighted pilot rider Joanna Hickey and Michael Delaney with sighted pilot rider David Peelo, both took part in the Road Race (B&VI Class). Delaney and Peelo covered the 96.8km distance in a time of 2.29.32, finishing 16th, fourteen minutes behind the winners Poland. Walsh and Hickey finished 9th on the women’s 72.6km course, with a time of 2:03.14.

Today(Monday), the penultimate day of competition for the Irish at these Games, sees Jason Smyth running the 200m heats (T13) and Dunmanway’s John McCarthy competing in his favoured field event, the club throw.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

GOLD FOR SMYTH

Irish sprinter Jason Smyth set the Bird's Nest track on fire when he won the T13 100m gold in a new Paralympic World record time of 10.62sec - a two-tenth improvment on the time he had set in the qualifying rounds earlier in the day. In front of a 90,000 strong capacity crowd and unfazed by a false start Smyth blasted out of the blocks to storm away from the field and with 40 meters had opened up a commanding lead that no one had any chance of closing. Alexey Labzin of Russia took silver 0.26 of a second off the Irish man (10.88sec), with Luis Felipe Gutierrez of Cuba taking bronze in 10.98sec.
Afterwards a delighted Smyth said of his debut Paralympic Games triumph: "I'm thrilled; it's awesome! I've put in so much work; it's all gone so well. To break my own world record twice in one day I knew it was there; it was just a matter of coming out and doing it on the big occasion, and I'm so pleased I did."
Smyth sensational win is the second gold for Ireland at these Games after his room mate Michael McKillop won 800m (T37) gold on Wednesday night also in world record time. In a lovely moment as Smyth reached the Irish contingent on his victory lap McKillop reached out and draped his gold medal around Smyth’s neck. It is the third Irish medal at these Games after Gay Shelly got the team off the mark on Tuesday with bronze in the individual Boccia competition.
After Amhran na bFhiann rang out for the second time in the space of two days and tricolour was raised in the shadow of the Paralympic flame Smyth’s full time coach Stephen Maguire spoke about this stunning Irish success.

“Jason had a super run, held himself superbly all day together all day. He put a marker down this morning, we knew by the reaction of the other athletes; he was the man to beat. Although he doesn’t show it there was obviously a fair bit of pressure there. He didn’t have the fastest start in the world but from 20 to 100 metres he absolutely nailed it.

It’s absolutely brilliant to break a world record twice in one day, to clock 10.62 is more than we could ask. There’s ninety one thousand people here, to run close to your PB with a false start and all that pressure is tremendous. It’s just magic and he so deserves this”, Maguire concluded.

Remarkably there is still more to come from Ireland’s latest Paralympic champion. The Derry flyer runs in the T13 200m in which he is the reigning world champion and record holder (21.83sec). The heats of the 200m are Monday with the final on Tuesday.


Two or Ireland’s four bikes raced in their final event today; the men’s road race at the spectacular Ming’s Tomb Reservoir venue. Dubliner Cathal Miller, in the LC1 class, started well, maintaining a good position nicely nestled among the leading group. Half way through the third lap of the six lap circuit however, Miller’s race was brought to a premature and unwelcome end when his rear tyre blew to the extent that it damaged the rim off the wheel and a write off.

Afterwards a frustrated Miller said:“ I’m gutted, it’s so frustrating because I know I was suffering and my legs were tired yesterday, but they really felt good today; they felt great out there. That makes it all the worse; I was where I wanted to be at that point and felt great. It is not the way I want to finish my campaign but I can’t complain about the effort; there was nothing wrong with that. It was unlucky and it’s just the way it goes unfortunately.”

Enda Smyth, (CP4 Class) was the other Irish rider in action at Ming’s Tomb. Despite a bright start the Dubliner found the conditions difficult especially with the effort in yesterday’s time trial lingering in his legs and took the decision to withdraw from the race with a lap to go. Miller and Smyth have now finished their representation in what has so far been an extremely successful Paralympic games for Irish cycling with a number of PBs, Irish records and high finishes.
It was the final day’s racing for the two Irish crews at the sailing regatta in Qingdao. The Sonar crew led by Paul McCarthy finished eleventh in both races 10 and 11 which secured them a ninth place finish overall. Skud crew; Amy Kelehan and John Twomey finished tenth and ninth in races 9 and 10 respectively. With the final race in their series cancelled due to delays earlier in the week, the Skud crew finished in tenth position overall.

Speaking from Qingdao, Irish Team Manager Denis Kiely said: “This fleet was of the highest standard with any one of the top five boats capable of winning gold. The standard of sailing was exceptional. Paul and his crew had expectations of finishing in a higher position but it wasn’t to be.

Kiely continued: “Amy and John in the Skud were happy with their performance during this regatta, they met their expectations. It was a fantastic experience that will stand to them all as they move forward.”
In table tennis, the Irish pairing of Eimear Breathnach and Kathleen Reynolds were back in action today at Peking’s University in the quarter-finals of the team event against the number three in the world; France. The Irish duo took first blood with Reynolds defeating Fillou in three sets. The Irish pair however was unable to maintain the momentum, ultimately losing to the French 3-1.

Speaking after the match first time Paralmypian Eimear Breathnach said “I am happier with my performance compared to my singles campaign, but still disappointed to lose.” Kathleen Reynolds added: “It was always difficult for us against the world number three team. We did our best but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough.”

Day eight for the Irish starts with swimmers Darragh McDonald and team mate Johnny Cummings finding themselves pitted against one another in the first heat of the 400m freestyle (S6) in the Water Cube bidding for a place in the evening final. Shortly afterwards, in the Bird’s Nest, Patrice Dockery goes in her final event; the heats of the T53 200m on the track hoping to make the grade for the final.

Paul Cassin’s 7-a-side football team is next up facing hosts China in their classification at the Olympic Green Hockey field. The winner of that match will progress to the 5th/6th place play off at these Games with the loser contesting the 7th/8th play-off on Tuesday. Finally for the Irish tomorrow both tandem bikes will contest their road races at the Ming Toom Reservoir.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

NEW WORLD RECORD FOR SMYTH

Jason Smyth ran a new Paralympic world record time of 10.81 to in the hearts of the T13 100m, qualifying easily for tonight's final in the Bird's Nest Stadium.
The 20 year old from Derry shaved four hundredths of a second off his own world record of 10.85, set last May at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester.
Running in the second heat, Smyth got off to an explosive start and beat Zlatanov of Bulgaria by half a second. Alexey Labzin of Russia had won the first heat in 10.98 and is the only other athlete to have run under 11 seconds in qualifiying.
Today's final takes place at 5.45pm local time (10.45am Irish time). Smyth will race in lane four with Labzin in five.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Paralympics: Day 6

A 1-1l draw for the Irish 7-a-side football team against Great Britain today means that they finish third in their pool and now face a classification match against hosts China on Sunday. Should they win that tie, they will progress to the 5th/6th play-offs, guaranteeing an improved world ranking.
In sweltering conditions at the Olympic Hockey Field, both goals came in the second half, with Joe Markey scoring just five minutes into the half. Four minute later GB equalised.
Swimmer Hannah Clarke SB5 finished fifth in the first heat of the 100m breaststroke, taking ten seconds off her previous best in a new Irish record of 2:06.33 and missing out on a place in the final by four hundredths of a second.
Stephen Campbell S11 finished sixth in the third heat of the 100m freestyle (S11 Class) which put him 15th overall.
Archer Sean Heary's great run ended when he lost to Switzerland’s Philippe Horner 99-113 in the last eight of the compound open class.
All four Irish bikes were competing in the 24.8km time trial event at the stunning Ming Toom Reservoir venue. Enda Smyth CP4 was first up, finishing ninth in 41:24.28. Cathal Miller LC1 also finished ninth with a time of 36.33.95.
Catherine Walsh, with sighted pilot rider Joanna Hickey (B&VI Class), finished seventh with a time of 40.09.67 while Michael Delaney, with sighted pilot rider David Peelo, was 18th in 36.26.54.

* World champion Jason Smyth runs in the T13 100m heats tomorrow. Assuming he qualifies, Smyth will race in the T13 100m final tomorrow evening.

Sonar Sailors 3rd

Ireland’s Paul McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Richard Whealey placed 3rd in race 7 today in the Sonar class. They followed this with a 4th and 10th place in race 8 and 9 respectively and now lie in 9th position overall. France continues to remain in 1st place overall.

Two races remain in their series but with the Medal Ceremony also scheduled for tomorrow the Irish crew will need the wind on their side to ensure racing takes place as they aim to improve on their overall placing.

In the Skud 18 class Amy Kelehan and John Twomey placed 10th and 9th in race 7 and race 8 and therefore remain in 10th place overall. America continue to hold the lead in this fleet.

Racing will resume tomorrow (Saturday, 13th September). In the Sonar class, race 10 & 11 are expected to take place tomorrow while race 9, 10 and 11 are scheduled tomorrow in the Skud 18 class. The medal ceremony will take place tomorrow in both classes.

Paralympics: Day 5

Archer Sean Heary upset the form book to qualify for the quarter-finals of open compound class.
Heary, ranked 20th after the qualification round, beat Korea's Sung Kil Go, ranked fourth, 113-112. With the score all square at 84-84 going into the fourth and final end, Heary shot 29 out of a possible 30 from his last three arrows. He faces Switzerland’s Philippe Horner in the quarterfinal match.
In the Water Cube today, Ellen Keane SM9 finished sixth with a new Irish record time of 2.47.35, in the 200m Individual Medley. That puts the Dublin teenger tenth overall at her first Paralympics.
Visually impaired swimmer Stephen Campbell from Cookstown, Co Tyrone finished sixth in his 400m Freestyle heat ( S11), knocking six seconds of his PB and setting a new Irish record of 5:28.43,
At the Paralympic sailing venue in Qingdao, Sonar sailors Paul McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Richard Whealey produced the best sailing result for the Irish so far placing fifth in race six to leave them lying 11th overall with five races remaining.
In the Skud 18 class . Amy Kelehan and John Twomey remain tenth overall after another tenth place finish in race six. Races seven and eight were postponed due to lack of wind.
In boccia, the combined BC1-BC2 Irish team of Gay Shelly, Tom Leahy, Bobbie Connolly and Padraic Moran lost 2-12 to home favourites in the quarter-finals.
On the track, Patrice Dockery T53 just missed out on a place in the 100m final when she clocked a time of 18.90. John McCarthy F32/51 was ninth in the discus with a best of 9.48m.

Day 5 Results
Archery (compound)
Seán Heary, Last 16, bt SK Go (Kor) 113-112

Athletics
Patrice Dockery T53, 100m r1 heats, 4th, 18.90; 10th overall. sec.
John McCarthy F32/51, discus, 9th, 9.48m

Boccia
Team BC1/BC2, quarter-final, lost to China 2-12.

Sailing
Scud 18 (Amy Kelehan, John Twomey), race 6, 10th; races 7, 8 postponed; 10th overall.

Sonar (Paul McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Richard Whealey) race 6, 5th; races 7,8 postponed); 11th overall.

Swimming
Ellen Keane SM 9, 200m IM heats, 6th, 2:47.35 (IR); 10th overall.
Stephen Campbell S11, 400m fs heats, 6th, 5:28.43 (IR); 11th overall.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

GOLD FOR MCKILLOP: Day 4 Results

Micheal McKillop T37 sensationally won gold for Ireland at Paralympic Games in Beijing tonight setting new Paralympic world record time of 1:59.39. This took 2.74seconds off McKillop's own record set two years ago at the World Championships.

McKillop, aged only 18, who is coached by his father Paddy, left field for dead with 200m to go and had three seconds to spare over Brad Scott of Australia and France's Djamel Mastouri.

“It’s a dream come true. It’s unbelievable. The other night I was very nervous when I was in the stadium; I didn’t really know what to expect, but when you get into the call room you’re on your own. You have to build your own emotions up, you have to lock them up and focus on your race. That’s what I did; I focused on my race and the dream of becoming a Paralympic champion has come true,” an ecstatic McKillop said after completing a victory lap.

After the emotional medal ceremony when Amhran na bFhiann rang out for the first time in the Bird’s Nest, Ireland’s Paralympic champion got the chance to speak to his mum Catherine at home in Antrim. “Oh yeah my mum is in hysterics! She was more nervous than I was going into the race. She had a tear in her eye she said when I crossed the line, so I can’t wait to see them. I can’t wait to get out and support the other athletes on the team now and enjoy the rest of the Games.”

Ireland also had two other competitors in action in the Bird’s Nest. Wexford’s Catherine Wayland, F51 combined, finished 6th in the women’s discus with a season's best of 6.13m.
Duleek’s Lisa Callaghan, F37 combined, finished an agonising 9th in the javelin with a throw of 22.87m - one spot away from a place in the final.

Following Gay Shelly’s bronze medal in the individual competition yesterday, Ireland combined BC1/BC2 boccia qualified for tomorrow’s quarter-finals. Drawn in the pool with Spain and Finland, the Irish beat Finland 7 – 3 but lost 1-12 Spain in a match where tactical placement was key.
Dressage rider Eilish Byrne finished an encouraging eighth with a score of 65.833% in the Individual Freestyle Dressage Test Grade II. Having completed her Paralympic competition Byrne will join the rest of the Irish team in Beijing.

Results Day 4

Archery (compound)
Sean Heary bt Michael Arenz (Ger) 108 - 104.

Athletics
Michael McKillop T37, 800m, 1st, 1:59.39 (WR). GOLD
Catherine Wayland. F32-34/51-53, discus, 8th, 6.13m.
Lisa Callaghan, F35-38, javelin, 9th, 22.87m.

Boccia
Ireland 7, Finland 3. Rd 2, Ireland 1, Spain 12.

Cycling
Michael Delaney BV1 (with David Peelo), sprint, 5th, 11.460 secs(IR).
Archery
Sean Heary bt Michael Arenz (Ger) 108 - 104.

Dressage
Eilish Byrne (Freestyle Grade II) 8th, 65.833%.

Football (7-a-side)
Ireland 0, Ukraine 7

Swimming
David Malone S8, 100m bs heats, 5th; 10th overall.

PARALYMPICS: Day 4

On day 4 at the Paralympics, David Malone finished fifth in the second heat of the 100m backstroke at the Water Cube - tenth overall with a time of 1:16.80 - and not enough to make the final.

Malone then announced his retirement from international competition. In a hugely successful 12 year career, the 30-year-old Dubliner won silver in Atlanta, gold in Sydney and silver in Athens four years ago.

One of Ireland’s most successful Paralympians and Sydney Gold medalist Dave Malone, brought the curtain down on his spectacular swimming career in the Water Cube this morning. Swimming in the second heat of S8 100m backstroke, Malone clocked a time of 1:16.80 to finish in fifth; tenth overall, which was not enough to book a place in the final of the event.

“I was always going to retire after this meet; it’s my fourth Paralympic Games, and in my head I always wanted to go out at the highest level,” he said.

“Winning the gold in Sydney 2000, eight years ago now; that was a huge moment because that year I’d won the World Championships, the European Championships, and I held the world record. It was the only one I hadn’t won and it was a big milestone. It’s probably the greatest moment in anyone’s career to win a medal at the Paralympic Games. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

“I held the world record for 100m backstroke for ten years, and it was only broken last year. I’ve had an international career spanning back to 1993 so I’ve had a really amazing journey. It was always going to end here.”

Malone is the head coach of the National Aquatic Centre swim team in Abbotstown and will remain heavily involved in the sport.

“The future of Paralympic swimming in general is very bright in Ireland, there’s some incredible talent coming through; the best I’ve ever probably seen coming through at once.”

“It really is exciting times ahead; hopefully my career has inspired some of those to get involved, and the new generation can inspire young Paralympic athletes and able bodied athletes to get into the pool and start swimming.

“I’m very much looking forward to a new chapter in coaching, and being heavily involved in sport from another aspect. I go away with great memories.”

In cycling, Michael Delaney and pilot David Peelo set a new Irish record in the sprint at the Velodrome. Ireland's 7-a-side footballers were beaten 0-7 by the world champions Ukraine.

Archer, Sean Heary, who qualified in 20th place, beat Michael Arenz of Germany 108 to 104 to reach the compound bow quarter-finals.

Paralympics on TV

RTE Sport will air the third in their series of shows on the Irish team at the Games on Wed Sept 10th at 11.45pm on RTE 2. All the shows will be available to view on demand at Paralympic Games site http://www.rte.ie/sport/olympics2008/paralympics_index.html

Paralympics: Day 3

Day 3 Result
Archery
Sean Heary, qualified 1/16 elimination phase.

Athletics
Patrice Dockery T53, 400m r1, 5th, 1:8.95.

Boccia
Gabriel Shelly BC1 semi-final, lost A Marques (Por) 1-4; bronze medal play-off, bt Yi Wang (Chn) 6-2. BRONZE.

Cycling
Catherine Walsh (with Joanna Hickey) BVI (1-3), ind pursuit qual, 5th, 3:50.515 (IR).
Enda Smyth CP4, 1km TT final, 7th, 1:16.074.
Cathal Miller LC1, 1km TT final, 7th, 1:11.824 (IR)

Sailing
Scud 18 (Amy Kelehan and John Twomey), race 3, 10th; race 4, 10th; race 5 10th; 10th overall.
Sonar (Paul McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Richard Whealey), race 3, 12th; race 4 13th; race 5, 11th; 11th overall.

Swimming
Jonathan Cummings S6, 100m BS, 5th, 1:29.92; final, 8th 1:29.26 (IR).
Stephen Campbell S11, 100m bfly, 5th, 1:16.28 (IR); 10th overall.
Ellen Keane SB8, brs, 2nd 1:27.61 (IR); final, 6th, 1:29.72 (IR)

Table tennis
Kathleen Reynolds F3, lost H Choi (Kor)1-3; lost Y Silva (Cub) 2-3.

BOCCIA BRONZE FOR SHELLY


Gabriel Shelly won Ireland's first medal of the Paralympic Games beating home favourite Yi Wang of China to take a bronze medal in the boccia BC1 class.
In the semei-finals, Shelly, who won gold at the Sydney Games of 2000, had lost 4-1 to long-time rival Antonio Marques of Portugal. However, in the play-off match for bronze, he showed considerable steel to beat Wang 6-2.
Wang had ended Pádraic Moran's hopes in the quarter-final beating the young Irishman in the tie break.
"My team mate Pádraic helped me with the strategy; he gave me ideas about how to play him after yesterday," said Shelly. "He advised me to go long on him so I did and it really worked. I felt strong mentally too."
At the velodrome in Laoshan, Catherine Walsh and her sighted pilot rider Joanna Hickey setting a new Irish record of 3.50.515 in the women's individual pursuit (B&VI Class). Enda Smyth finished seventh in the men's 1km time trial (CP4 Class) with a time of 1.16.074.
In the men's 1km time trial (LC1), Cathal Miller set a new Irish record of 1:11.824, shaving over a second off his previous mark to place seventh.
At the Water Cube, Coalisland's Jonathan Cummings (S6 Class) finished eighth in the final of the men's 100m breaststroke with a new Irish record time of 1:29.26. Ellen Keane, competing in the 100m backstroke (SB8Class) finished sixth in 1:29.72.
Tyrone's Stephen Campbell made his Paralympic debut in the 100m butterfly (S11 Class) heats, finishing 10th in 1.16.28.
Sonar sailors, Paul McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Richard Wheeley finished 13th, 12th & 11th respectively, in races 3, 4 and 5, leaving them 10th overall with six races left. In the Skud 18 class, Amy Kelehan and John Twomey lie 10th overall.
On the athletics track, Irish flag bearer Patrice Dockery finished fifth in the second heat of the 400m (T53 Class) with a time of 1:08.95.
Archer Sean Heary made it through the ranking to face Arenz of Germany in the direct elimination round tomorrow morning.
Kathleen Reynolds lost to Korea's Hyun-Ja Choi 1-3 and to Yenelis Silva of Cuba 2-3 to end her campain in the individual tabel tennis competition. Reynolds will pair up with Eimear Breathnach for the team event on Saturday.

PARALYMPICS: Day 2

On a good day for the Irish, both Irish cyclists set new national records , Padraic Moran and Gay Shelly won their pools in the individual Boccia competition to advance to afternoon quarter-finals, with Gay Shelly then qualifying for the semi-finals.
In the evening, Garrett Culliton set a new Irish record for the discus. The 7-a-side football team lost a thrilling match 2-4 to world No 2, Iran in their opening pool game. Ireland’s sailors in the Skud and Sonar classes got their campaigns underway in Qingdao, as did dressage rider Eilish Byrne in Hong Kong. Table tennis player Kathleen Reynolds saw her first action of these Games, Eimear Breathnach played her second pool game, and Offaly’s Eoin Cleare competed in the shot putt final.
All foru boccia players compeletd their remaining pool matches; boccia is a form of bowls for athletes with severe physical disabilities. In the BC2 class, Bobbie Connolly and Tom Leahy both missed out on progressing further, with only pool winners making it through to the quarter-finals. Connolly finished third in her pool; so did Leahy despite beating Ferreira of Portugal 5-2 in his final match.
In the BC1 competition, Padraic Moran won his pool and then faced local favourite Yi Wang of China in a gripping quarter-final. When the pair couldn’t be separated after the four scheduled ‘ends’, the contest went to a tie break, with the player who got his balls closest to the "jack" winning. Moran was closest when the Wang threw a perfect last ball to inch Moran’s out of pole position. Moran had one last chance; he held his nerve but his ball landed one centimetre further away from the jack.
“Obviously I’m disappointed not to have progressed but to get to the quarter-finals in my first Paralympics is a massive achievement. I tried everything; it was only a fraction in the tie break. I wish him every success as he goes into the semi-finals. I’ll be back, and in London in 2012.”
Boccia team captain and Sydney gold medal winner Gay Shelly stormed through his quarter-final, leading his Spanish opponant Jose Vaquerizo, 8-0 after three ends. The Spaniard pulled back two in the fourth end, making it a 8-2 victory for the Carlow man.
In the veledrome, Dublin's Cathal Miller set a stunning new Irish record 4.53.969 in the men’s Individual Pursuit (LC1 Class), knocking a massive seven seconds off his previous mark . Tandem pair Michael Delaney and sighted pilot rider David Peelo were also in record-breaking form in the 1km time trial (B&VI 1 - 3 Class), recording a time of 1.08.593. All four Irish bikes in action in Beijing have broken an Irish record with several events yet to come.
Laois native Garrett Culliton was the first Irish track and field athlete to compete in the Bird’s Nest. Culliton produced his best ever throw of 17.79m to finish fifth place overall, with a new Irish record.
“I suppose I can’t ask for any more than a PB; that’s what you try and go out to do in every event. I had six throws over 17metres so it was quite a good series. The air was quite heavy and dead so there was no real carry; maybe another day it might have carried over but I’m happy enough,” he said.
In the F32 shot, Offaly’s Eoin Cleare finished seventh with a best of 6.11m.
The 7-a-side football team opened their Paralympic campaign against Iran. In a tense first half, Iran were leading a 2-0 lead, before the Irish were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half time. Finbarr O'Riordan's shot was saved at the first attempt but he then buried the rebound. In the second half, Ireland’s keeper Brian McGillavary was put under sustained pressure with Iran pushing their tally to four before Ireland pulled one back. Final score 4-2 to Iran.
Ireland now face world and Paralympic champions Ukraine in their next pool game on Wednesday.
Ireland’s dressage representative Eilish Byrne riding Youiri finished 11th with a score of 62.818% in the Individual Championship Test Grade II in Hong Kong.
Sonar sailors Paul McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Richard Wheeley finished seventh and 10th in their first two races, leaving them eighth overall. In the Skud class Amy Kelehan and John Twomey, whose baot had been damaged by a support craft a day earlier, were ninth and tenth respectively, with an overall position of tenth.
Table tennis player Eimear Breathnach lost 1-3 to Italy's Pamela Pezzutto and is out of the competition. Kathleen Reynolds lost 1-3 to Qian Li of China.
Day 2 results

Athletics
Garrett Culliton F33/34/52 , discus, 5th, 17.79m (IR).
Eoin Cleare F32, shot, 7th, 6.11.

Boccia
Gabriel Shelly BC1, bt T Kitani (Jap) 5-2; lost J Park (Kor) 3-5; QF, bt J Vaquerizo (Spa), 8-2.
Pádraic Moran, BC1, bt L Sanders (Nzl) 7-3; bt R Aandalen (Nor) 4-2; QF lost Wang Yi (Chn) 5-6.
Tom Leahy BC2, bt F Ferreira (Por) 5-2.
Roberta Connolly BC2, lost P Cortez (Arg) 4-1.

Cycling
Cathal Miller LC1 4km Ind Pursuit Q, 5th 4:53.969 (IR) .
Michael Delaney (with David Peelo) BVI, 1-3, 1Km TT Final, 10th, 1:08.593 (IR).

Dressage
Eilish Byrne, Championship Grade II, 11th.

Football (7-a-side)
Ireland 2, Iran 4.

Sailing
Scud 18(Amy Kelehan, John Twomey) 18) race 1, 9th, race 2, 10th; 10th overall.
Sonar (Paul McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Richard Whealey) race 1 7th, race 2, 10th; 8th overall.

Table tennis
Eimear Breathnach F1-2, lost P Pezzuto (Ita) 1-3.
Kathleen Reynolds F3, lost to Q Li (Chn) 1-3.

Monday, September 8, 2008

East Galway Welcomes Hession

From Loughrea AC:

"Paul Hession was back into Athenry last Saturday evening after
his successful campaign at the Olympics in Beijing a few weeks
earlier.

His official homecoming started at his home out in Park and, on a
fine clear but cold evening, proceeded into the Square in the
centre of Athenry, where he was met by over 500 well-wishers, who
congregated from all over East Galway to welcome him back.

He has raced twice since the Olympics, beating a number
of finalists from the 200M in the process. His three race series
at the Olympics captured the hearts and minds of the whole of
Ireland and was very unlucky not to reach the final, posting a
5th place finish in the first semi-final, coming 10th overall out
of 16 starters. He pieced together a top-quality series of times
but was fractionally outside what he needed to post to qualify
for the last 8 in this very hotly-contested event. His times in
the three races were, as follows: 20.59, 20.32 and 20:38.

At the Square, he was first received by local parish priest,
Canon Tony King. His near neighbour and current Mayor of County
Galway, Peter Feeney, was next up with fulsome tributes, hoping
that Paul would make it through to London in four years time.
Local TD, Noel Treacy, made a rousing tribute to both Paul and
other local athlete, Olive Loughnane, next. Iain Shaw, as
secretary of Athenry AC (Senior) was also full of praise for
Paul's efforts in China. Finally, Paul thanked everyone for
their support through the years, naming his early coaches Tom
Page, Mary Kelly and Dermot McNamara, as particular influences.
He also thanked his main commercial sponsors, Coffey Construction
and Tom Hogan Motors, for their financial support in recent
years."

PARALYMPICS: Day 1

In Beijing at the Paralympics Games, Team Ireland has hit the ground running with two national records in Beijing's Laoshan Veldrome and many other fine performances on the opening day of competition.

Sydney gold medalist Gay Shelly was the first Irish athlete in action, with a 5-2 win over Brock Richardson of Canada in the individual boccia competition. Shelly's team mates Bobbie Connolly, Padraic Moran and Tom Leahy, also started their campaigns, while teenage swimmer Ellen Keane raced in the Water Cube, and Eimear Breathnach featured in the individual table tennis.
Cyclist Enda Smyth from Santry finished seventh in the 3km Individual Pursuit (CP4 class) smashing his own Irish record by 2.674 seconds with a time of 3:55.919. A second Irish record of 1:16.208 came from Catherine Walsh with sighted pilot rider Joanna Hickey (B & VI class) in the final of the women's 1km time trial. The duo knocked 2.318 seconds off their previous best, in a final where Great Britian took gold in world record time (1:09.066).
Michael Delaney with sighted pilot rider David Peelo (B & VI 1-3 class) finished 13th in the 4km Individual Pursuit.

Tom Leahy lost to Risa Kainuma (Jap) 2-4 in the individual boccia. Dubliner Bobbie Connolly also lost to China's Cao. For Games debutant Padraic Moran there was joy when he beat world No 2 David Smith (Gbr) by a whopping 9-0.
In their second pool matches, Shelly defeated Ibarbure (Arg), Leahy lost 5-1 to Bentley (Gbr), Bobbie Connolly beat Leglice of Argentina 4-3, while Moran lost 2-4 to Marques (Por).

In the Water Cube, Clontarf's Ellen Keane got to within 0.34seconds of her best ever time in the 100m butterfly, finishing 6th. Her favoured event, the 100m breaststroke, comes on Tuesday. In table tennis, Eimear Breathnach from Ballinteer lost 1-3 to Pushpasheva (Rus).

Day 1: Sun, Sept7

Boccia (Individual competition, pool matches)
Gabriel Shelly BC1 bt B.Richardson (Can) 4-2; bt M Ibarbure (Arg) 3-2
Padraic Moran BC1 bt D Smith (Gbr) 9-0; lost A Marques (Por) 2-4
Tom Leahy BC2 lost R.Kainuma, Japan 2-4; lost D Bentley (Gbr) 1-5
Roberta Connolly BC2 lost 5-0 to F.Cao (Chn) 0-5; bt R Leglice (Arg) 4-3.

Cycling
Enda Smyth CP4, 3km Ind Pursuit qual, 7th, 3:55.919 (IR).
Michael Delaney (with David Peelo) B&VI (1-3), 4km Ind Pursuit qual, 13th, 4:49.911
Catherine Walsh (with Joanna Hickey) B&VI (1-3), 1Km TT final, 7th, 1:16.208 (IR)

Swimming
Ellen Keane S9, 100m bfly, heats, 6th, 1:18.50

Table Tennis
Eimear Breathnach F1-2, singles r1, lost N Pushpasheva (Rus) 1-3.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Paralympics: Dockery to Carry Flag


Just when you thought it was safe to forget the Olympics and Beijing, along comes the Paralympics - and the best prepared Irish team ever should give this nation plenty to be proud of over the next fortnight.
Making the team, which had a strict quota of places on offer, has taken a huge effort by all 45 members of the Irish teams. To be selected they have had to prove that they are world class and this they did.
Sprinter Jason Smith is second only to Paul Hession on the 100m rankings and third behind Hession and Brizzell for 200m. He burst on to the scene two years ago when he set world records on this way to winning both 100m and 200m at the World Paralympics Games in Essen, Germany.
Since then, he has got even faster and after running 10.53 for 100m and 21.47 for 200m this year, he is so fast that spectators find it hard to believe that he is partially sighted. "No I certainly can't drive," he tells us. "I see different colours and blurs rather than faces or bodies, but on the track I have no problems really because I can see the lines."
For his first Paralympics, training with his full-time coach Stephen Maguire has gone well. "I had a nerve problem at the top of my hamstring earlier on, but that's gone. I'm a lot stronger this year and a lot quicker when I'm racing."
Despite being tipped to take two medals, the mantle of favourite isn't bothering him. "I don't mind the pressure - I just run!"
Another young athlete tipped for gold is 18-year-old Michael McKillop from Glengormley, who won the 800m at the World Paralympic Championships in Assen at the age of only 16, setting a new world record on the way.
One of the best known names on the athletics team of just ten is Patrice Dockery, of Clonliffe Harriers, who will carry the flag for Ireland at Saturday's opening ceremony in the Bird's Nest Stadium.
Beijing will be a sixth Paralympics for the 37-year-old Dubliner. Her best performance came at the Sydney Games of 2000 when she finished sixth in the 5000m. In Athens four years ago, she was involved in a spectacular crash that received lots of publicity.
For Beijing she decided to go back to her sprinting roots and has qualified for the 100m, 200m and 400m in the T53 class. "I've been reclassified from T54 as at previous Games, which means I have a better chance of reaching a final at least. But it won't be easy."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Equestrian: B Samples Positive

EQUESTRIAN'S world governing body, the FEI, have confirmed that the B samples from the four cases (including Ireland’s ‘Lantinus’) at the 2008 Olympics involving the presence of the banned substance capsaicin in horses, have all yielded positive test results, so confirming the initial positive findings from the A samples.

The four cases are:
Bernardo Alves (Brazil); Chupa Chup
Christian Ahlmann (Germany); Coster
Denis Lynch (Ireland); Latinus
Tony Andre Hansen (Norway); Camiro

The process will now follow the Accelerated Medication Control Procedure during and after the 2008 Olympic Games which is part of the FEI Regulations for Equestrian events at the 2008 Games (Annex G),available on the FEI Olympic website.

Evidence and written submissions have been requested from each rider,and a three-member panel of the FEI Tribunal has been appointed.Hearings will be held on 5, 6 and 7th September in Lausanne,Switzerland.

Horse Sport Ireland tonight confirmed that they had been informed by Denis Lynch that he would be taking up his right to a hearing and that he intended to make himself available on any of the dates proposed by the FEI.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Women's Soccer: O'Riordan Helps Chinese Team


Found this on NBC News; have edited it a bit and added extra info:

Ballyfermot man Don O'Riordan is not very hard to find. Show up at the Chinese Olympic women soccer team's training, and his pale skin and Western features make him easy to spot - and then his Irish accent just sharpens the contrast.

As initially startling as his presence may be, it helped China to a place in the quarter-finals, where they lost 1-2 to Japan.

Having retired as a player after 25 years in England and the United States, the 51-year-old Irishman is on Olympic duty with China, which has been his home for about four years.

"It's an opportunity I never expected," said O'Riordan, who's only been with the team for about a month. "It's an opportunity that doesn't come along too often. It's an honor to be asked."

O'Riordan is a technical adviser to the Chinese women's team, a sideline from his regular job as technical director for the Chengdu Blades of the Chinese Super League.

He landed in China as a member of English League Championship - or second division - team Sheffield United (a club he joined after three years as Sligo Rovers manager 2001-4; he was also associated with Galway United)). In 2006, club chairman Kevin McCabe bought the Chengdu Five Bulls, which adopted the English side's nickname, and with O'Riordan already in the country to help run a development academy associated with Sheffield United since 2004, asked him to help the team's latest acquisition a year later.

With O'Riordan responsible for soccer operations, Chengdu won promotion to the first division and its rapid improvement earned him wide recognition in Chinese soccer.

China's national soccer association sought his advice for the women's team and with the addition of another Westerner, fitness coach Mark Laws, have made some noticeable improvements in the squad.

As technical adviser, O'Riordan sits in the stands, watches the matches and discusses strategy and tactics with coach Shang Ruihua.

"Sitting on the bench, you don't see the space," he said. "It's an eye-in-the-sky thing. If need be, I call and make a suggestion."

Shang runs the session, but O'Riordan adds guidance and technical advice. A constant companion is team translator Patrick Li, a native Chinese who lived in England for a year. Communication isn't a problem, O'Riordan says, who knows a few Chinese "words and phrases."

O'Riordan, who signed with Derby County in 1972 at age 15 and whose career also included two years with the Tulsa Roughnecks of the old North American Soccer League, has been welcomed by Shang and his players.

"Coach Shang is one of the nicest men I've ever met," O'Riordan said. "Most Chinese don't want to 'lose face' by letting in a foreign coach. It's big of him to bring in a foreign coach, especially so late, and allow me to make changes."

HOW THEY ALL DID: A Summary of Irish Results

BADMINTON
Scott Evans, r1 lost to Marc Zweibler (Ger) 18-21, 21-18, 19-21.
Chloe Magee, r1, bt Kati Tolmoff (Est) 18-21, 21-18, 21-19; r2 lost to Jaeyou Jun (Kor) 12-21, 14-21.

BOXING
John Joe Nevin, bantam, r1 bt Abdelhaum Ourradi (Alg) 9-4; r2 lost to Badal Uugar Enkbhat (Mon) 2-9
Paddy Barnes, lt fly, bye, r2 bt Jose Luis Meza (Ecu)14-8; qf bt Lukasz Maszczyk (Pol) 11-5; sf lost to Shiming Zou (Chn) 0-16; bronze.
John Joe Joyce, lt wlt, r1 bt Gyula Kate (Hun) 9-5; r2 lost to Felix Diaz 11-11(ref's dec).
Darren Sutherland, mdlwt, bye, r2 bt Nabil Kassel (Alg)21-14 (rsc); qf bt Alfonso Blanco Parra (Ven) 11-1; sf lost to James DeGale (Gbr)3-10; bronze.
Kenneth Egan, lt hvy rd 1 (rd of 32) bt Julius Jackson (Isv) 22-1; r2 bt Bahram Muzaffer (Tur) 10-2; qf bt Washington Silva (Bra) 8-0; sf bt Tony Jeffries (Gbr) 10-3; final, lost to Xiaoping Zhang (Chn), 7-11; silver.

CANOEING
Eoin Rheinisch K1; qual - 1st run 18th, 88.52; 2nd run 87.81 (total 176.33); 15th. Sf 10th 88.85; final 4th 88.06 (176.91 total).

CYCLING
David O'Loughlin, 4000m individual pursuit, qual rd, 11th, 4:26.102.
Road race - Nicolas Roche, 64th, 6:34.26; Philip Deignan 81st 6:39.42
Robin Seymour, mountain biking, dnf.
Also:
Wendy Houvenaghel (GBR) 3000m individual pursuit, qual rd, 1st, 3:38.443; r1h4, bt Lada Kozilkara (Cze) 3:27.829; final, 2nd, 3:30.395; silver.

EQUESTRIAN
Three-Day Eventing
Capt Geoff Curran; Kilkishen
Niall Griffin; Lorgaine
Louise Lyons; Watership Down
Austin O'Connor; Hobby Du Mee
Patricia Ryan; Fernhill Clover Mist;
8th, 276.10.

Reserve:
Sacha Pemble; Hyanie d'Aubrie and I've Been Dun

Show-jumping
Denis Lynch, Lantinus, qual r1, eq 13th, 1 ft; qual r2, eq 4th, 1 ft; dsq (doping offence)
Reserve:
Cian O'Connor, Complete

FENCING
Siobhan Byrne, sabre, r1, lost to Irena Wieczowska (Pol) 8-15

ROWING
Men's heavyweight four (Sean O'Neill, Jonno Devlin, Sean Casey, Cormac Folan), r1h3, 3rd, 6:02.85, sf1, 6th 5:58.14; B final, 4th 6:07.97; 10th overall.
Men's lightweight four (Paul Griffin, Richard Archibald, Gearóid Towey, Colin Moynihan, res Richard Coakley) r1h3 4th, 5:52.32; rep 1 1st 6:21.79; sf2, 4th, 6:13.85; B final (Coakley in for Towey) 4th 6:06.02; 10th overall.
Also:
Richard Chambers (GBR) h1, 2nd 5:52.38; sf2, 3rd 6:08.75; final 5th, 5:52.12.
Alan Campbell, single sculls (GBR) r1h5, 1st 7:14.98; qf1 2nd 6:52.74; sf2, 2nd 7:05.24; final 5th, 7:04.47.

SAILING
Tim Goodbody, Finn, (22nd), 13th,15th,15th,17th,16th,21st,15th; 21st.
Gerald Owens/Phil Lawton, 470; 22nd, 1st, 17th, 15th, 1st,(25th), 21st, 15th, 13th, 24th; 16th
Ciara Peelo, women's Laser Radial, 23rd, 17th, 15th, 7th, 13th, 24th, (25th)18th, 10th; 20th.
Peter O'Leary/Stephen Milne, Star, 6th, 12th, 7th, 10th, 12th, (13th), 13th, 8th, 11th, 12th; 13th .

SHOOTING (Clay Targets)
Derek Burnett, Olympic trap, 29th, 110x125

SWIMMING
Andrew Bree, 100m breaststroke, r1ht5, 2nd, 1:01.76; 30th overall. 200m breaststroke r1h4, 1st, 2:10.9; sf1, 5th, 2:10.16; 12th oa. 200m im, dns.
Melanie Nocher, 200m fs, r1h2, 7th, 2:04.29; 43rd oa. 200m backstroke r1ht2, 1st 2:12.29 (IR); 20th.
Aisling Cooney, 100m backstroke, r1h7, 7th 1:02.50; 31st.

TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETICS
MEN -
Paul Hession, 200m, r1h6, 3rd, 20.59; r2h4, 1st 20.32, sf1, 5th, 20.38; 10th overall.
David Gillick 400m,r1h7, 4th, 45.83; 29th overall.
Thomas Chamney, 800m, r1h1, 5th, 1:47.66; 35th overall.
Alistair Cragg 1500m, r1h2 8th, 3:44.90; 39th overall. 5000m, r1h1, 6th 13:38.57; final dnf.
Martin Fagan marathon, dnf
Robert Heffernan 20k walk, 8th, 1:20.36
Jamie Costin 50k walk, 44th, 4:15.16.
Colin Griffin 50k walk,dsq.
WOMEN -
Michelle Carey, 400m hurdles, r1h2, 7th, 57.99; 25th overall.
Joanne Cuddihy 400m, r1h4, 6th, 53.32; 39th overall.
Derval O'Rourke 100m hurdles, r1h1, 6th, 13.22; 28th overall.
Roisin McGettigan steeplechase, ht 2, 2nd, 9:28.92 (SB); final, 14th, 9:55.85.
Fionnuala Britton steeplechase, ht 1, 10th, 9:43.57 (SB); 27th overall.
Eileen O'Keeffe hammer, gp B, 10th (62.53, 62.05, 67.66); 23rd overall.
Olive Loughnane 20k walk, 7th, 1:27.45.
Pauline Curley, marathon, 63rd, 2:47.16

TRIATHLON
Emma Davis, 37th, 2:06.28.

Monday, August 25, 2008

And the point is?

"Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else."
- “Catch-22″, Joseph Heller

Wiser heads than me are wondering when medals became the primary reason for anyone to get involved in sport. The sight of the jumbo jet containing the "most successful Olympic team in 100 years" flying into Heathrow and filmed live in a mood of hysterical excitement by the BBC has left me feeling queasy. It's not too far a leap to the Nurembourg rally, as no less than Billy Connolly has pointed out.
Here's part of an excellent article from James Lawton in today's Indo:

By James Lawton

Tuesday August 26 2008

Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger is not xenophobic -- he has proved that in his long years irrigating English football with the finest skill -- but he was maybe the most damning witness of all amid the fanfare which greeted Great Britain's medal haul in Beijing.

"I have been watching the Olympics. The British success is amazing because you have no structure here," he said.

"In France, every village has sports facilities provided for the public. Here there is hardly anything. Where do they all go to train? In Paris there are 50 competitive swimming pools and in London two, and yet you got the Olympics."

It is something that behind every British triumph shines like a beacon.

The wretched truth behind Britain's extraordinary showing at the 29th Olympics, bettered only by China, the United States and Russia, was that it said everything about the potential of a nation's sportsmen and women to compete against the best in the world when provided with proper support -- and absolutely nothing about the interest of successive governments in sport as anything other than an occasional boost to their fading popularity.

When London mayor Boris Johnson took the flag and promised the world's sport would be given an appropriately brilliant welcome when it came to the 30th Olympics in London in four years' time, he was participating in a lie. The lie is that Britain won the right to host the next Olympics because it was committed to investing in youth and not because of brilliant campaigning by Olympic icon Sebastian Coe and the clumsy, arrogant politics of the far superior candidate, Paris.

As well as athletic achievement, there was also the not inconsiderable matter of £265m prised out of UK Lottery profits to help the athletes -- but did that kind of largesse ever materialise before the juicy prestige of an Olympic hosting triumph came into sight -- or the national humiliation of 1996, when one gold was gleaned, which was two less than Kazakhstan?

London has the next Games and is promising a different kind of glory to that which came in Beijing -- something splendid in its own right -- but maybe they should still apply a little caution.

That certainly was the advice of the Olympic heavyweight champion Audley Harrison in Sydney eight years ago when the British team ran far ahead of expectations with 11 gold medals, 10 silver and seven bronze.

"It's all very well getting carried away with the fact that some investment in a few elite athletes has brought success," Harrison said, "but what people should remember is that there has to be a wider base for the development of young people in sport. The fact is we just don't have a sports infrastructure in Britain. We have improved here in Sydney but that is because the most talented have at last been given some real support.

However, there are so many other young people who could develop if they were given the right facilities."

Young Olympians Look To London 2012


Among the younger members of the Irish team in Beijing was 22-year-old triathlete Emma Davis. Like badminton players Scott Evans (20) and Chloe Magee (19), sailors Stephen Milne and Peter O'Leary (both 22), boxers John Joe Nevin and John Joe Joyce and Paddy Barnes (20-ish), athlete Thomas Chamney (24), fencer Siobhan Byrne (24) and swimmers Aisling Cooney and Melanie Nocher (also 20-ish), Davis will be one to watch in London 2012. The future of Irish Olympic sport isn't entirely gloomy!

Here is what Emma had to say about her Olympic experience:
'Today is my last full day out here in the Olympic Village. I fly back tomorrow morning to Dublin with the rest of the Irish team. I have had a wonderful time, met lots of amazing people and learned a great deal.

"The training camp in Matsue, Japan went very well. The facilities were great and Richard and I got a good block of training in. I headed over to Beijing knowing I could have done no more to prepare myself.

"A few days before we flew I crashed my bike and damaged two of the joints in my back, this affected my glute and although the physios worked hard to fix it there was not enough time and the best I could do was to put it out of my head. Luckily during my bike warm up it didn't flare up so I was happy enough on the start line.

"On race day, August 18, I was understandably pretty nervous. The race venue is an hour's coach journey away from the village and the only coach left at 7am. I like to have a stretch and run in the morning before breakfast on race day so I woke early at 5.30am and got on with my pre- race routine.

"The coach journey was a bit of a hassle but I put some ear plugs in and settled down to sleep for a while. When we arrived at the venue everything ran the same as at a world cup but 15 minutes earlier. We lined up as usual in race number order and were called out onto the pontoon. When the gun went I was pleased and anxious to get going. Initially the swim went well and I was leading for about the first 300m then things started to go downhill. I am not sure why, as training had gone really well.
"I ploughed on and exited the swim with a couple of girls just off the main pack. My transition didn't go well; the racks were not the usual ones we use in World Cups and my back wheel got stuck. I lost valuable seconds and as a result missed the pack.

"On the bike I worked hard and managed to catch quite a few of the girls in front. My back and glute was a problem but since there was nothing I could do about it, I just got on with the race and ignored it as best I could. Onto the run I had a good transition and lead my pack out. About 1500m per lap of the run was on blue matting, and under the matting was a temporary metal platform. This reflected the heat and a thermometer read 47 degrees! I felt pretty bad on the run after working hard on the hilly bike course – as I'm sure did everyone else.

"After the race lots of athletes were being stretchered off and 20% of the field didn't finish. I finished five places above my ranking - not a bad result for my first year as a full-time athlete.
I am taking a little break now. I have pushed it hard this year and picked up a few injuries and now is a good time to get over them.

"I did the best job I could and will be back in 4 years time fitter and ready for another shot."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Athletics: What Next?

By contrast with the boxers, Irish athletics performances at these Games - with a few notable exceptions - has been truly depressing.
With respect to the Beijing team manager Patsy McGonagle, who is a good man, we suspect that elite Irish athletics is in terminal decline. A major factor is the deep stench hanging over the sport which began with Ben Johnson and hasn't gone away.
Virtually every major sprinter of the past two decades has been stripped of his or her credibility sooner or later. Systematic, out-of-season testing does pay dividends however, which is one reason why the American sprinters weren't quite as dominant (we suspect) this Games; jailing Marion Jones sent out a clear and unequivocal signal.
But cautious though we must be about slandering the innocent, we have to question - like anyone else with a brain - the dominance of groups of athletes from parts of the world where dope testing quite simply doesn't happen. And it's not just the Caribbean we are talking about.
Catching seven Russian athletes before the Games and a bald statement that systematic doping is part of the Russian system did nothing to reassure when watching a new world record in the women's steeplechase for instance. And why do no Africans - ever - get caught?
Against this background, Alistair Cragg is quite right to say that athletics has changed beyond imagining since the days when Coghlan, Treacy, Flynn, O'Mara and Marcus O'Sullivan represented Ireland with distinction on the tracks of the world. With the arrival of increasing numbers of African women, it has changed even since Sonia O'Sullivan's silver in Sydney.
Distance runners these days see no point in thrashing themselves running 100 and more miles a week. Because of the African domination, they still won't get anywhere, so why not enjoy themselves on the domestic circuit and have a life?
As for sprinters - Paul Hession is as good as we are going to get. That's pretty good by the way - we really could have a useful 4x400 team, and if someone had made sure our lads had travelled to the right competitions last year, we might even have had such a team in Beijing.
Is there a way back for athletics? We will always have the odd good performance - such as Eileen O'Keeffe at the World Championships last year - but that is as good as we can expect. Luck plays a part - Derval O'Rourke, David Gillick and Alistair Cragg ran brilliantly in 2006, but not this time. Joanne Cuddidy was injured; so was O'Keeffe; nothing more sinister than bad luck. Bad luck also afflicted Craig Mottram, Philips Idowu, Kelly Sotherton and countless others in Beijing. It's the way it goes. Still, how depressing it was to see both Cragg and Fagan not even finishing their races in the final weekend of the Games. Morale clearly was not high in the Irish camp.
Coming up with a prescription for the future isn't easy. Not reassuring is the job description for the job of High Performance Director which AAI currently has on their website, which is depressingly full of words like "pathways", "vision", ' best practise" "feedback loops"etc. Here's just one choice sentence from the job spec: "Creation of best practise integrated coaching pathways". Such waffle makes you wonder if they have any real idea of what they're looking for.
Boxing had Gary Keegan to organise the athletes and a Billy Walsh to coach them - plain talking, intelligent men, who above all are superb communicators. They kept it simple and it worked. Is there anyone in Irish athletics to match them?
We can think of one. Jamie Costin is already the athlete's rep on the AAI council. He'd be worth a call.

Boxing: Kenny Our Hero


So Kenny didn't take the gold - that doesn't take away from the arrival on the Irish sporting scene of a sportsman of pure class, an example not just to other boxers but to us all.
From the start of his fight with Xiang, we had the feeling that, like with Sutherland in the semi-finals, this was going to be one fight too far. We were right. On the day, the best boxer won, whatever anyone may say about hits not registering and the bias of the judges.
Kenny knew it himself- and, if anything, his impeccable behaviour and sportsmanship (and that of Xiang) after the fight only enhanced his stature. These two gentlemen proved superb ambassadors for their sport.
So did the RTE panel - Mick Dowling, Micheal Carruth, Andy Lee and Bernard Dunne spoke a language (it's called plain English) we don't hear very often in these days of MBA-speak. How refreshing to be reminded that sport commentary doesn't need to be mind-numbingly inane or queasily self-serving.
Then there was Jimmy Magee - what can we say? Aged 75 and still oozing boyish enthusiasm, along with those priceless turns of phrase. Long may you flourish, Jimbo!
By any standard, the Famous Five were the outstanding Irish success story of these Games. All five lost only to gold medal winners, two won bronze and one silver. Not only did they walk the walk but they talked the talk, coming across as a bunch of bright an articulate lads - unlike some of the trash-taking English.
About the only bad news is that high performance director Gary Keegan is about to set off for the Institute of Sport, which is already bearing all the marks of a white elephant on the scale of the National Consumer Agency.
Maybe he will learn to cope with the mountains of paper work, the snail-slow progress, the politics and the aforementioned MBA-speak ("pathways", "best practice", "going forward"), but we suspect he'll very quickly lose patience.
Stick with the boxing Gary - it could get even better.

Friday, August 22, 2008

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Days 15 & 16

Irish in Action (all times Irish)

Saturday August 23:


Cycling
08.00 Mountain Bike - Men's Cross Country Robin Seymour, dnf

Athletics
13.10 Men's 5000m Final Alistair Cragg, dnf

Sunday August 24:

Athletics
00.30 Men's Marathon Martin Fagan, dnf

Boxing
08.50 Light-heavyweight final Kenny Egan lost to Xiaoping Zhang (Chn), 7-11; SILVER MEDAL.

Boxing: Egan Goes for Gold



As early as 30 seconds into the first round, you sensed that Kenny Egan, competing in the light heavyweight semi-finals of the Olympic Games, was going to do it.
His rival Tony Jeffries (Gbr) already looked uncomfortable. As the fight went on, it was clear that he had no answer to the Neilstown man’s clinical execution of uppercuts and punches, which ensued that the points mounted up in his favour.
In the third round, trailing 1-7, Jeffries made a desperate effort to hustle Egan and this didn’t work.
“He’s boxing out of his socks and that wouldn’t be hard because he’s wearing very small socks!” shouted an excited Jimmy Magee as Egan continued to dominate.
In the end it was 10-3 and a magnificent victory for Egan, who has scored 44 points and had only seven against him in 32 minutes of boxing during this tournament.
He now has at least a silver medal and will fight Xiaoping Zhang of China in Sunday’s Final (9.50am our time) for the Olympic title.
Quote of the Day: “The matador will always beat the bull – and Kenny’s the matador.” Ger Fleming, Neilstown Boxing Club.

Boxing: Sutherland, Barnes Go Out


Right from the start of this middleweight semi-final, it didn't look good. Our man was hunching down, while James DeGale (GBR) danced around the ring, dictating the rhythm and flow of the match.
DeGale was 2-1 up at the end of the second round, but looked better than that. In the third, he picked off Sutherland for another six points. It was over, even with another round to go. Final score 10-3.
Sutherland was gracious in defeat and he will still come home with a bronze medal. You get the feeling it was one match too far - Sutherland did his best work in the match against Blanco, and returning to that level would have been difficult (whatever Billy Walsh may say).

Against China's Shiming Zou in the semi-finals of the light flyweight class, Paddy Barnes was always going to struggle, but the scoreline of 0-15 does not do justice to his efforts.
Shiming, the world amateur champion of 2005 and 2007, scored the first point in an energetic opening round. By the end of the third, Barnes was 0-8 down but never stopped trying to find his way through the long arms of the Chinese fighter. He deserved more from the judges.

Athletics: Costin 44th, Griffin Disqualified in 50k Walk


Jamie Costin finished an honourable 44th in the men’s 50k with a time of 4:15.16. Four years ago, Costin didn’t even make the start after a serious car accident while training. It took years of rehabilitation before he could even walk normally again.
At the finish, Costin required medical attention after his efforts. Of the 59 starters, seven dropped out while a further five were disqualified including Colin Griffin. He was lying 37th, not far ahead of Cosin, after 15km, when he was pulled out.
Winner of the race was Alex Schwazer (Ita) who set a new Olympic record of 3:37.09. Of the top 16, exactly half improved their personal best times, despite conditions that started cool enough at 19 degrees but got steadily hotter and more humid and had even spectators diving for cover.
“It has been a tough and winding road for me to get here,” Costin told Frank Greally of the Irish Runner magazine. “I know my placing is not good enough, but it was really important for me to finish this Olympic event. “I was really tired at 38 kilometres and the final twelve kilometres were very tough.”
“No matter what happened out there, I knew that I had to finish the course,” Costin said. “My family are here and it has been eight years since I last competed in an Olympic Games, so I wanted to make the best of my chance here in Beijing.”

Equestrian: What a Dope


Much as we would love it to be otherwise, it doesn’t look good for Denis Lynch.
An Irish Times reader points out the following:
From the FEI list of prohibited substances:
PROHIBITED SUBSTANCES (MEDICATION CLASS A) Agents which could influence performance by relieving pain, sedating, stimulating or producing/modifying other physiological or behavioural effects, including: local anaesthetics;....
From the site of Equi-Block's main distributors "The Original Equi-Block, Equi-Block DT Formula and Super Strength Equi-Tite Liniment are the absolute best Topical Pain Relievers on the market. These products are specifically formulated to provide unparalleled results in the field of equine topical pain relief while providing the greatest amount of pain reduction possible.” So it's dodgy to start with.
And what about the packaging: "Contains capsaicin, will not test positive". In other words, it may well be illegal, but it won’t show up in a test. Many borderline body-building products advertised themselves in similar fashion before one too many positive tests.
Finally, if the testing has become more rigorous, why did no-one tell Denis?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Boxing: Irish Medals


1952
John McNally, btm, silver
1956
Tony "Socks" Byrne, lt, bronze
Johnny Caldwell, fly, bronze
Freddie Gilroy btm, bronze,
Fred Tiedt, wlt, silver (and he was robbed)
1964
Jim McCourt, btm, bronze
1980
Hugh Russell, fly, bronze
1992
Michael Carruth, lt wlt, GOLD
Wayne McCullough, btm, silver
2008
Paddy Barnes, lt fly, bronze
Kenny Egan, ly hvy, silver
Darren Sutherland, mdl, bronze

Not forgetting:
1924 - Patrick Dwyer, wlt, who was too exhausted to box off for bronze in the days when you had to do that.
1928 - Edward Traynor, btm, who lost the box-off for bronze.

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 14

Irish in Action Friday August 22
(all times Irish)

Athletics
00.30 - Men's 50km Walk, Jamie Costin 44th, 4:15.16; Colin Griffin disq.

Boxing
08.00 - Middleweight semi-finals, Darren Sutherland (Ire) lost to James DeGale (Gbr) 3-10
12.00 - Lt Flyweight semi-finals, Paddy Barnes (Ire) lost to Shiming Zou (Chn), 0-16
14.00 - Lt Heavyweight semi-finals, Kenny Egan (Ire) bt Tony Jeffries (Gbr) 10-3

Equestrian: Lynch Used a Type of 'Deep Heat'

HORSE Sport Ireland (HSI) was informed by the world equestrian
governing body, the FEI, at 2.15 pm Hong Kong time today (Thursday),
that Irish Olympic rider Denis Lynch's horse 'Lantinus' had tested
positive for a banned substance and that as a result he would be
suspended from taking part in tonight's show jumping final.

Denis Lynch and Horse Sport Ireland officials attended a preliminary
hearing with the FEI a short time ago and were informed that the
substance found in the horse was called capsaicin.

At the tribunal the FEI indicated that this substance was an
ingredient in some products in regular use. Subsequently it was
identified by Denis Lynch as an ingredient in a product called
"Equi-block" used by him on his horse. Equi-block is a product used in
similar circumstances to 'Deep Heat' used on humans and Denis Lynch
explained to the tribunal that he commonly applies Equiblock to the
horse's lower back prior to exercise.

Following this preliminary hearing today the FEI informed Denis Lynch
that he remained suspended for tonight's competition.

The FEI have subsequently confirmed that three other riders due to
jump in tonight's final at Hong Kong have also been suspended as a
result of the same substance being found in their horses.

Horse Sport Ireland has confirmed that they submitted a urine sample
from the horse to a voluntary screening testing process made available
by the FEI on the horse's arrival in Hong Kong and the results of this
test were negative.

The horse has also been tested on numerous occasions, including
following many of its recent victories, and has tested negative on all
these occasions.

Athletics: Loughnane 7th


Some good news this morning with Olive Loughnane finishing seventh in the women's 20k walk with a personal best time of 1:27.45 - just 20 seconds off Gillian O'Sullivan's Irish record.
That put her exactly 33 seconds behind the bronze medal winner in a race won by Russia's Olga Kaniskina in 1:26.31. In driving rain (she must have felt right at home), Loughnane got a warning early on, but held her composure to finish strongly.
It means the Irish athletics team has reached its target of making four finals - Roisin McGettigan in the steeplechase, Alistair Cragg in the 5000m and Rob Heffernan, as well as Loughnane, in the 20k walks.

Top 8 finishes by Irish Track and Field Athletes since 1924
1928 – Pat O’Callaghan – Hammer – 1st
1932 – Pat O’Callaghan – Hammer – 1st
1932 – Bob Tisdall – 400m Hurdles – 1st
1932 – Eamon Fitzgerald – Triple Jump – 4th
1956 – Ronnie Delany – 1500m – 1st
1960 – John Lawlor – Hammer – 4th
1976 – Eamonn Coghlan – 1500m – 4th
1980 – Eamonn Coghlan – 5000m – 4th
1980 – John Treacy – 5000m – 7th
1984 – John Treacy – Marathon – 2nd
1984 – Caroline O’Shea – 800m – 8th
1988 – Marcus O’Sullivan – 1500m – 8th
1992 – Sonia O’Sullivan – 3000m – 4th
1992 – Jimmy McDonald – 20k Walk – 6th
2000 – Sonia O’Sullivan – 5000m – 2nd
2000 – Sonia O’Sullivan – 10,000m – 6th
2008 – Robbie Heffernan – 20k Walk – 8th
2008 – Olive Loughnane – 20k Walk – 7th

Showjumping: Lynch Out for Doping

Denis Lynch's horse Latinus is one of four horses sensationally banned from competing in today's Olympic showjumping competition for doping, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has announced.

Three other horses - from Brazil, Germany, and Norway - have also been suspended after testing positive for a prohibited substance. In its statement, the FEI said the four horses had been 'provisionally' suspended by the FEI further to doping/medication control tests that indicated the present of capsaicin in each horse.
Capsaicin is prohibited because of its hyper sensitising properties, and is also a 'medication class A' prohibited substance for its pain relieving properties.

The stunning news, which broke just hours before the individual showjumping contest, is not good news for the sport.

In Athens 2004, Cian O'Connor's individual showjumping gold medal with teh horse Waterford Crystal was later stripped from him for drug offences, while a doping scandal cost Germany the team jumping gold after the horse ridden by Ludger Beerbaum, a key member of the German team in Beijing, was disqualified after testing positive.
World No 1, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, was left off the German team for Athens after her horse tested positive, though she was later cleared.

Doping: The Odds of Getting Caught

From Wednesday's Guardian

Being caught committing a drugs offence here in Beijing is an 825–1 shot. Odds like those surprise even the International Olympic Committee.

The head of its medical commission, Professor Arne Ljungqvist, said a week ago that the three positive tests from 2,203 returned at that time was a "quite low" figure because "usually we have dozens". Since then the number of doping controls conducted has almost doubled to 4,133 but there have still only been two more positive tests. With the athletes at these Olympics going stronger, higher, faster across the board, should we be suspicious?

Victor Conte certainly thinks so. The man who, as the founder of Balco, was the architect of the biggest athletics drugs scam in history — or at least the biggest ever to be exposed — said on Monday that he believes the anti-doping culture of some National Olympic Committees and teams leaves much to be desired.

"When [race] times begin falling like rain, questions arise, especially when the record-setters are from countries such as Jamaica and other Caribbean nations where there is no independent anti-doping federation," he wrote in a letter to the New York Daily News.

Some teams definitely have form. The entire weightlifting team of Greece was banned from these Olympics after 11 of its 14 members tested positive for steroids in March.

So even at odds of 825–1 we should not perhaps be too taken aback that the biggest name to have been caught doping is Fani Halkia, winner of the 400m hurdles for Greece in Athens. The former Olympic champion's story fits Conte's description well: having come back from retirement to lower her personal best by 1.22sec in the 2004 semi-finals, she won gold by a half-second margin. The IOC has now engaged lawyers to prosecute her coach, George Panagiotopoulos, another of whose athletes has also recently tested positive for steroids.

The strangest thing is that three of Beijing's four other drugs cheats did not test positive for an even vaguely sophisticated substance. A North Korean double medallist in shooting used beta-blockers; a Vietnamese gymnast had taken medication used to control PMT; and the cyclist María Isabel Moreno flew home to Spain as soon as she had provided her specimen, knowing how soon the IOC would turn up the EPO in her system. It seems an almost contemptuous lack of competence in the field of sporting deception.

It is not yet known for what Lyudmila Blonska, the latest to fall foul of the procedures, has been caught. But these Games' heptathlon silver medallist is a repeat offender who served a two-year ban for using the proscribed steroid stanozolol in 2003. Her silver-medal performance at the world championships last year aroused the suspicions of Kelly Sotherton — the Briton had finished third behind Blonska.

The IOC, though, points to its low hit rate with a cheerful smile. "I think quite many recent events have shown that we are rather on the heels of those who try to cheat," said Ljungqvist last week. Ljungqvist's organisation obviously has the most to lose with every positive test, and others might say the evidence suggests that the cheats are staying one step ahead of the system. Quite apart from the incompetence of the officials conducting the procedures — the bruises on Chris Hoy's arms as he won his third gold medal on Tuesday show how unfamiliar they are with the cartography of veins — observers have a right to wonder why there have been no positives for the latest designer drug, slow-release EPO.

The IOC says it is employing a reliable test for the third-generation version of the drug after its detection was trialled at this year's Tour de France. But here is another statistic: the 2008 Tour also threw up five positive tests, a race in which there were fewer than 200 riders as against more than 10,000 athletes in the Olympic village. Does that add up?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

funny olympics


Havta have a laugh occasionally!

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 13

Thursday August 21st
(all times Irish)

Athletics
12.00 -Women's 20km Walk, Olive Loughnane, 7th, 1:27.45.

Equestrian
12.15 -Individual Show Jumping Final, Denis Lynch and Lantinus, dsq, doping charge.

Athletics: Cragg Through


Alistair Cragg finished a fighting sixth in the first heat of the men's 5000m, but his time of 13:38.57 was sixth fastest overall and enough to see him comfortably through to the final. The humid conditions obviously took their toll on all the runners, with Cragg's time faster than the winning time in two other heats.
In the men's 800m, Thomas Chamney was extremely unlucky not to make the next round after finishing fifth in the first of eight heats with a time of 1:47.88. Just two from each heat along with eight fastest losers went through.
A few athletics facts from these Games: of the 204 nations competing in Beijing, 201 have at least one athlete competing (53 African nations are competing, along with 49 European, 42 from the Americas, 42 from Asia and 15 from Oceania) . Only 104 countries competed in the swimming. The most popular event on the track and field calendar is the 100m, with 165 entries; by comparison, the entire sport of beach volleyball has 96.
It took Carl Lewis FOUR Olympiads to win his eight medals; Phelps could do it in one.

Boxing: Sutherland Nails a Third Bronze


With Darren Sutherland's clever demolition of Alfonso Blanco Parra of Venezuela , the Irish Olympic boxing dream continues in spectacular fashion.
Last year, Sutherland was taken apart 20-13 by Blanco on his way to a silver medal at the World Championships in Chicago.
It proved turning point for the Dubliner, who decided to "go back to the drawing board" and start fighting his own way again. This time, he encouraged Blanco to come at him, absorbing the blows and tiring him out. By the end of the second round, when he was trailing 6-1, it was clear that the Venezuelan had no idea how to get through the Sutherland defence.
Weirdly, he was dropping his own defence and dancing around like Muhammed Ali in his prime - a very dangerous thing to do against a fighter like Sutherland. In the end, our boy won 11-1, his left hook proving particularly lethal.
"I didn't want to be left behind. I won a medal too" he said to his corner through his green mouthguard after the fans had counted down the final five seconds.
He will now fight his old rival James DeGale of England in Friday's semi-final (8am our time). There is no love lost between the pair - Sutherland has won four of their five matches, but that single loss came last December in the Olympic qualifier. Amazingly, Egan is also down to fight an Englishman. What ever happened to all those hard men from Russia, Kazakhstan, Korea and, above all, Cuba? Changing times indeed.
Quote of the day(from the inimitable Jimmy Magee): "Blanco's brain has gone blanco...!"

Beijing Cabin Fever Hits Journalists


For journalists, a week and a half in the Olympic bubble clearly causes a certain amount of giddiness.
On the BBC breakfast show , a chap called Adrian proposes that Amy Winehouse be the face of the 2012 Olympics. He has a point – Winehouse is probably closer to the typical Brit than Paula Radcliffe or all those cyclists who seem happy to spend their days living like hamsters in a cage.
Then in the Irish Times, our old pal Iano shows clear signs of having spent too much time in the Beijing boot camp with an article of heavy-handed satire (we think).
“ When an athlete steps on to the track at the Olympics it's not simply show time. It's something they've worked towards for years; it's life-defining as, with the whole world watching, their Neil Armstrong moment arrives. Yesterday, David Gillick didn't even step out of the spaceship.
One small step back for Gillick.
One giant leap backward for Irish athletics.”
Bloody hell – we thought David Gillick was just a talented 400m runner, the best we’ve ever had, but one for whom making even the semi-finals of an Olympics would be a huge ask. He trains with Martin Rooney after all – and the Brit born of Irish parents is a second faster than him.
Iano moves on to voice what he thinks are the opinions of the TV-watching public back home.
“ So all our athletes are crap. We deserve better than this. This is taxpayers' money. We want to see finalists or personal bests and maybe even some medals.”
Gillick’s “failure” he says (on behalf of the Irish public), deserves some hard questioning. Really? I would have thought the Irish public just says “hard luck” and moves on to its real concerns – the All Ireland and the Premiership.
“ It doesn't matter that he's won two European Indoor titles for Ireland. That he left his family and friends to base himself at Loughborough University in England, because the facilities and coaching simply aren't available in Ireland. That he's put four years work into getting it right at the Olympics, only to see it go inexplicably wrong,” says Iano.
Then there’s Derval O’Rourke - another “failure”.
H’mm. How about this for a theory. Both Gillick and O’Rourke moved away from home, from the “inadequate” training facilities and “below-par” coaching that had brought them considerable success and allowed them to go full-time.
Maybe they would have been better staying put among their friends, with family support and coaches who knew and understood them, rather than travelling to the UK, where they were very small fry in a big pond. When you’re away from home, the long hours between training sessions can become a huge burden.
Iano then turns his – we hope – satirical eye on our distance runners. Where have all our distance runners gone, he asks. Róisín McGettigan made the final of the steeplechase and bombed, he says. Oh yeh? Roisin was in a race where the pace was set by a couple of very suspect Russians. Possibly she got her tactics wrong, but we are not going to make matters worse for a very brave athlete by slamming her performance.
“Why aren't more athletes coming through the US scholarship system anymore, like Delany, Murphy, Coghlan, Treacy, O'Sullivan, O'Mara, Sonia, etc?” he then asks. We all know why – distance running is something you do for “fun” these days; there is no point in white guys and gals even attempting to stay with the Africans. At least that’s how it seems.
Finally the paragraph that provoked me into writing this:
“We've pretty much agreed by now that Alistair Cragg is a loser, but then he's not really one of ours anyway, and Pauline Curley was practically an embarrassment in the women's marathon - even if she epitomised the last remnants of the Olympic spirit."
Cragg – a loser? The chap has had an extraordinarily difficult passage through life. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone. He needs our support – not criticism, even in the form of heavy handed sarcasm.
As for Pauline, she has been the high point of the Irish Olympic effort, representing us ordinary sloggers who still go out for a run most days and line up against her every weekend. She has set a wonderful example by her dignity, grace and humility.
Iano we suspect knows this. Here is the following paragraph, where his anger and frustration is (at last) obvious:
“Who wants to see a 39-year-old amateur finishing the marathon when we have Michael Phelps chasing eight gold medals in the Water Cube, all carefully orchestrated for NBC and their 2,000 broadcasters in Beijing (only one of whom, by the way, is staying on for the Paralympics)?
Iano – we know your heart is in the right place, but we get the feeling members of the bruised and battered Irish team in Beijing may need convincing.
Good luck for the remaining few days in the Beijing Babble-on - and stay out of that smog!

Sailing: Lucky 13th for O'Leary, Milne


Star fleet sailors Peter O'Leary (Cork) and Stephen Milne (Bangor) have finished 13th in the Olympic regatta after only a year campaigning together.
On an exciting day in Qingdao, O'Leary and Milne produced their fourth top ten result in the Star class placing 8th in their first race of the day. Because of all the delays, racing had started early so that the Opening Series could be concluded in time. The Irish pair finished 11th and 12th in races 9 and 10.
Counting four top ten race finishes in their first Olympic Regatta this young pair - both aged 22 and a controversial choice for the team after Max Treacey and Anthony Shanks won Ireland the place - can now look forward to London 2012. There the Olympic Sailing Regatta will take place in Weymouth in conditions very similar to home waters. The experience O’Leary and Milne have gained in Qingdao will stand to them.
In the Opening Series overall, O'Leary and Milne counted 6th, 12th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 8th, 11th, 12th and discarded a 13th.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 12

Wednesday, August 20th
(all times Irish)

Sailing
07.00 - Star Keelboat (Stephen Milne and Peter O'Leary) races 8, 8th, race 9, 11th, race 10, 12th; 13th overall, 91 pts.

Athletics
12.00 - 800m Rd 1, Ht 1, Thomas Chamney (along with Yuriy Borzakovsky and Wilfred Bungei), 5th, 1:47.66; dnq.

13.15 - 5,000m Rd 1, Ht 1, Alistair Cragg, 6th 13:38.57; one of 30 through.

Boxing
13.01 - Middleweight quarter-final, Darren Sutherland (Ire) bt Alfonso Blanco Parra (Ven)
11-1

Boxing: Two Bronze Medals - At Least!


Belfast's Paddy Barnes has won Ireland’s first medal of these Olympics after beating Lukasck Maszczyk 11-5 in today's light flyweight quarter-final.
The win guarantees Barnes at least a bronze medal. He faces a tough task against home favourite Zou Shiming in Friday's semi-finals (12pm).
Barnes is the lightest member of the Irish team; team captain Kenneth Egan, a light heavyweight (81kg) from the Neilstown club in Clondalkin, Dublin, is the heaviest.
A few hours later, he followed Barnes into the semi-finals with a clinical 8-0 demolition of the Brazilian Washington Silva. Even a non-boxing fan couldn't fail to be impressed by his performance - Egan is the best Irish boxer for years, with eight Irish and four European titles to his credit, and his pure class was obvious.
He clearly has great support - watching on the television, you could hear the Irish fans - cheering every move, singing 'The Fields of Athenry" and then counting down the final seconds - "five, four , three , two, ONE....!!" Magic stuff.
Add to that the excellent commentary by Jimmy Magee in Beijing and the expert analysis by Mick Dowling in the studio, and boxing is playing a blinder at these Games.
Egan now fights Tony Jeffries (GBR) in the first semi-final on Friday (14.01 our time)
In action at the same time as Egan was Paul Hession in the first semi-final of the 200m. He finished a brave fifth in a time of 20.38 - a bit slower than in the previous rounds, but then running three top class level races in two days is a big ask. He did us proud.

Sailing: Another Postponement

More frustration for the Irish sailors, Peter O'Leary and Stephen Milne in the Star class, with the two races scheduled for today now rescheduled for tomorrow (Wed 20th Aug).
Event organisers have a tough challenge to ensure that Races 8, 9 & 10 are completed in order to conclude the ten race Opening Series. In addition, under the Regatta Rules, no race can start after 16.00hrs local time on the closing day of the Opening Series.
Only the top ten boats from the Opening Series can compete in the Final Medal Race which is scheduled for Thurs Aug 21
Currently the Irish Star sailors are 14th overall, just eight points off Italy in 10th place and are naturally eager to count all three races tomorrow.
Their results to date include 6th, 12th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 13th; they are discarding another 13th result.

Monday, August 18, 2008

* IRISH TEAM IN ACTION: Day 11

Irish in action on Tuesday, August 19
(all times Irish)

Sailing
07.00 Star Class race 8, Stephen Milne & Peter O'Leary; postponed.
Boxing
12.00 Light Flyweight quarter-final, Paddy Barnes (Ire) bt Lukasz Maszczyk (Pol) 11-5.
14.16 Light Heavyweight quarter-final, Kenny Egan (Ire) bt Washington Silva (Bra) 8-0.
Athletics
14.15 200m semi-final 1, Paul Hession, 5th, 20.38.