Seaward and Connolly Closer to Rio as NI athletes excel in London

24 April 2016

Belfast runners Breege Connolly and Kevin Seward took major steps closer to selection for the Rio Olympics yesterday. No Irish athletes who competed in the London Marathon yesterday ran faster than their existing times which continue to make them firmly eligible for selection on the 3 person Irish squads to Rio which will be announced on 23rd May. London was a key event for registering fast times particularly given the perfect conditions.

Seaward is currently the fastest Irish male with a time of 2 hrs 14 mins 52 secs while Connolly remains 3rd fastest female with 2 hrs 37 mins 29 secs from London last year. Breege's main rival yesterday was Clare McCarthy who dropped out at the 30 K mark. Maria McCambridge will make a final effort to qualify in the Riga Marathon in mid-May.

In London two other NI women had outstanding runs when they shaved around 9 minutes off their previous best times.

Dublin Marathon bronze medallist Laura Graham of Mourne Runners finished a superb 16th in the non-elite race with a time of 2 hrs 48 mins 3 secs.  The 30 year old Larne and Omagh Half Marathon winner raced to a bronze medal only two weeks ago in the Titanic 10k. 

Scottish based Fionnuala Ross from Armagh was close behind in 21st in 2.49.57.  The future of NI  female marathon running appears to be in good hands with these two following Connolly and North team mate Gladys Ganiel who ran under 2 hrs 39 mins earlier this year.

In the Men's race 2 other NI athletes made valiant efforts to achieve the cut throat 2 hrs 15 mins time requirement necessary for selection for Rio. For a long time it appeared this could be possible as Belfast's Stephen Scullion and Thomas Frazer plus Sean Hehir of Rathfarnham stormed through the half way mark within 30 secs of each other in under 67 mins.

However this breakneck pace eventually told and all three slowed in the closing stages with Hehir eventually forging ahead of his rivals. His first place finish in the non-elite category in a PB of 2 hrs 17 mins 20 secs was scant consolation as he will now miss Rio selection. Frazer of St Malachy's finished a solid 3rd in the elite section in 2.19.17.

The biggest surprise was Scullion's superb PB time of 2.20.39 in only his second marathon which knocked a massive 14 mins off his previous fastest set in Belfast 4 years ago.  The highly talented 27 year old was selected in the past for the Commonwealth Games over 1,500 metres back in 2010.   

Kenya's defending champion Eliud Kipchoge won the Men's race in an outstanding time of 2 hrs 3 mins 5 secs which was the second fastest ever and only 8 secs off the World Record. Team mate Stanley Biwott was second in 2.03.51.

Victory in the Women's race went to Jemima Sumgong of Kenya in 2.22.58. Ethiopia's Tigist Tuka was 2nd in 2 .23.03.