THE OPENING DAY of track and field in the Olympic Stadium didn’t disappoint. In fact it was breath-taking from start to finish, with a full capacity stadium even for the morning heats.
Jessica Ennis set an outrageous British record in the 100m hurdles and ran a new personal best in the 200m. It was emotional seeing the overwhelming support of an 80,000 strong crowd for the home favourite. She leads overnight, but is not safe for gold by any means.
Reigning champions defended their titles in the first two finals of London 2012. Tirunesh Dibaba in the 10,000m was poetry in motion as she kicked with 500m to go. There was some consolation for the Kenyan women who picked up their first medals ever in this event. Tomasz Majewski had to throw further than he did four years ago in the shot put to hold off the young pretender David Storl.
For the Irish it was a day of mixed (and strong) emotions. Joanne Cuddihy, though disappointed with her run in the 400m, must be relieved to have another shot this evening. The qualifying standard was tough — over a second quicker than the time it took to make a semi-final in last year’s Worlds. In a really honest interview from the mixed zone, Joanne said that she went off hard and should be in shape to finish stronger than she did on the home straight.
That interview was nothing compared to Ciarán O’Lionáird’s reaction to his 1500m race. O’Lionáird felt the effects of a year of disruption to his training and was not in the mix to go through to the semi-finals. His post-race reaction was passionate, depressing and worrying all at once. Hopefully the threat to quit the sport was an empty one. According to his Twitter he’s already got his priorities reordered — “for now though I need some time to heal this injury & re-evaluate how to being myself back from where I currently am..physically & mentally”. To experience defeat on the biggest stage of all is a cruel blow for any athlete.
Knowing Fionnuala Britton, she won’t be happy with how the 10,000m panned out for her. It was a race where 13 of the top 14 athletes set lifetime or season’s bests. I guess Fionnuala would have gone to bed happy tonight if she had been one of those. Only 21 women in the entire world were good enough to compete in that race tonight, with 20 finishing. Fionnuala crossed the line 15th and 17 seconds outside her best. That’s not so shabby at all. Hopefully we see her again in the 5,000m heats Tuesday morning.
Yesterday’s results showed that the track in London is incredibly quick and also that the conditions for sprinters are very favourable. Five of the seven heats in the women’s 100m were won in sub 11 seconds. Cue the men’s 100 today!
As for the Irish in action today, Tori Pena will look to improve on her won national record of 4.52m in the women’s pole vault. In the women’s steeple, Stephanie O’Reilly will be hoping to reach her second major championship final this year having done so in the European’s held in June. Both will find it tough going to progress, but we hope they put in a performance to be proud of.
In the evening action, Rob Heffernan looks to go replicate or even go a step better than his eighth-place finish in Beijing. Joanne has another chance to run the kind of race we know she is capable of in the women’s semi-finals. With only the top two in each semi and the next two quickest making the final it is going to be a cut-throat round.
Immediately after those 400m semi-finals, you can expect the Olympic stadium to go a little crazy as Ennis runs two laps for gold and Mo Farah takes on his challengers in the 10,000m.