Thomas Barr went six weeks without any racing this summer. An Achilles niggle put his season on hold from mid-May to the end of June when he returned to action to win his tenth national title in the 400m Hurdles at Morton Stadium in Santry clocking 50.37s.
“Nationals was either going to be make or break for me in terms of coming out here really and thankfully it was make,” Barr says just two days out from making another appearance at a World Championships.
“I only really got on the track over hurdles in the week leading up to Nationals and even at Nationals it was take it round by round, the body held up okay, so I was able to jumpstart back into nearly full training after Nationals. Since then, I’ve been trying to get as much of the technical work done as I can and get the speed topped up.”
Barr feels he was in “unbelievable” shape in April and May before his Achilles trouble began. The Waterford man had put in solid performances running a Season’s Best of 49.53s in Italy and ran well in the Diamond League in Doha. With only four races under his belt this season however he is unsure of where he is at coming into Eugene.
“What I'm lacking at the moment is the race practice,” he says. “Us hurdlers we always bang on about that rhythm and I still don't quite have that locked down. If I can nail that in the first round, there's no reason why I won't be in a good position to challenge and try and make a final. If I can't quite get that, that's where I think I'll be lacking because the speed seems to be there, the speed endurance is there and the technical side is there, it's just about getting that racing rhythm back.”
The 400m Hurdles is one of the most stacked events in Track and Field at the moment. The three fastest times ever recorded in the event came in the Olympic final last year in Tokyo with Norwegian Karsten Warholm running a new World Record of 45.94s. Warholm hasn’t won a race in ten months and failed to finish his only race this season but is entered for the World Championships. Despite that Barr still feels he is the man to beat.
“I would never write him off that's for sure. I don't think he'd be here if he didn't think he could win. I definitely wouldn't bet against him.”
Barr gets his Championships underway tonight at 9.41pm. He is in Heat 4 and will race alongside talented Europeans Yasmani Copello (Turkey) and Rasmus Magi (Estonia) as well as American Trevor Bassitt who won silver over 400m at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade back in March. The first four advance to the semi-finals on Monday morning (Irish Time). Barr has been drawn in Lane 8. Despite recent difficulties he remains optimistic that he can progress and improve through the rounds.
“Once we get into the championships you never know what can happen. I have a lot of championship experience under my belt and I'm hoping to be able to call on that in the next couple of days.”