It was one of the most memorable performances from an Irish perspective at the Tokyo Olympics and was our standout performance from an athletics standpoint. Cillin Greene, Phil Healy, Sophie Becker and Chris O’Donnell ran a superb National Record of 3.12.88 to make the Olympic final in the Mixed 4x400m Relay, the first ever Irish relay team to achieve such a feat.
One year on, the Irish are hungry to replicate what they achieved in Japan. Sophie Becker and Chris O’Donnell remain part of the team, with talented young athletes Jack Raftery and Rhasidat Adeleke coming into the fold.
Adeleke was disappointed to be omitted from the team last year but has since ran a National Record of 50.70s over the distance and ran a 49.5s split in a relay at the NCAA Finals for Texas University.
In fact, all four athletes racing on the team in the heat of the World Championships at 7.56pm Irish Time at the iconic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon are in the form of their lives having all ran PB’s this season.
O’Donnell and Becker are the experienced heads on the team having competed at the World Relays in Poland last year and the subsequent Olympics and both are optimistic about their chances.
“We fully believe we can make the final,” O’Donnell says.
“I feel like there’s something a bit special about this team, you know, we’ve made two global finals. For a small country we’ve been doing pretty well. You look at the team we have and there’s no reason we can’t be in there.”
The reaction following the team’s qualification to the Olympic final last year was memorable. Messages from back home flooded the athletes’ phones and excitement took over. The team were slower in the Olympic final than in the heat, finishing eighth in 3.15.04. O’Donnell and the team are hoping to “keep their heads” should they qualify for the final this evening.
All eyes will be on the Irish team this evening and attention will be heightened following their superb achievements last year.
“Given the success of the relay last year people are aware of the Mixed Relay now so they are going to be giving more interest to it and people will definitely be wanting to watch us,” Becker says.
With thousands back home tuning in tonight, the Irish quartet are focused and determined to make yet another global final. Should they make the final it will be a late night for Irish fans back home as the event rounds off Day One’s programme at 3.50am Irish time.
Sharlene Mawdsley and Luke Lennon-Ford are also part of the travelling team and could be called upon if required.
Four other Irish athletes are also in action on Day One of the Championships. Kerry race walker David Kenny competes in the Men’s 20k Walk at 11:10pm Irish Time. Back in March Kenny moved to second on the Irish All-Time list for the event as he won bronze at the World Athletics Race Walking Tour in Podebrady, Czech Republic.
Sarah Healy, the Irish U23 record holder over 1500m, will be in action at 2:10am in the Women’s 1500m heats. Healy will be looking to advance to the Semi-Finals.
Irish Shot Put athletes John Kelly and Eric Favors will become just the second and third men in history to represent Ireland in the event at a World Championships. Paul Quirke was the first and only man to do so previously in 1993. Kelly comes into the Championships on the back of throwing a new National Record of 20.16m at the Cork City Sports, with Favors also throwing a PB of 20.11m in the same competition. The Shot Put qualification gets underway at 2:55am Irish Time.
The World Athletics Championships will be broadcast live on BBC TV and the World Athletics YouTube channel.