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REVIEW OF 2018 – Young Stars Sparkle

Thomas Barr in action at World Champs in London

Introduction (225)

What a twelve months it has been for athletics! Medals at European Championships and the Commonwealth Games in the same year and the emergence of the possibly the most talented crop of junior athletes in over a generation. Participation numbers continued to break all records with more people hitting the streets than ever. The 2019 Dublin City Marathon sold out within days and now ranks fifth largest in Europe. The Belfast City Marathon finally succumbed to the groundswell of opinion that had been gathering for a number of years and will next year take place on a Sunday as well as moving to a more runner-friendly route.

The local annual cross country showpiece also had its final outing at the Greenmount campus of CAFRE and will find itself next year in Dundonald. Other events that gave us a glimpse of the outside world included the IMC Belfast meeting and the Belfast International, both held at the Mary Peters Track, while down south the Morton Games and Cork City Sports drew international stars from all over the world.

The Youths and Juniors went on a record-breaking spree never seen before scattering existing Irish and NI marks like nine-pins and our ever-dependable Paralympics athletes flew the flag impressively at the IPC European Championships in Berlin.

The International Stage

The European Athletics Championships in Berlin were hailed almost unanimously as the best ever in the 84-year history of the event. The championships showcased the best of athletics and attracted a record 460,000 spectators over the six days with an average attendance of 50,000 over the final weekend.

It was a great week for the Irish with Thomas Barr deservedly taking a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles. Leon Reid (finally got his opportunity to pull on the green singlet after a two year wait and did not disappoint with a seventh place in a very competitive 200m. And it was good to see the return of the Ciara Mageean of old who battled to the line in the 1500m and was denied a bronze medal by less than a second.

There were firsts for the Irish all over the place not least having three relay teams in action. The investment in youth continues to pay dividends with an inexperienced women’s 4 x 100m squad setting a new national record and just missing out on a final place by a mere blink of an eyelid.

Leon Reid

Earlier Reid had been the star of the Northern Ireland team at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast in April. It was a superb Games for Ulster’s track and field athletes and that would have been the case even without the icing on the cake of Reid’s bronze medal – the first for an NI athlete since 1990. There were four other top eight places, that did not happen even once on the two previous occasions in India and Glasgow, and a NI 10,000m record for Emma Mitchell.

Hammer thrower Dempsey McGuigan started the ball rolling with a fine sixth place finish on the opening day of athletics action. Adam Kirk-Smith and teenager Kate O’Connor both took top eight spots later in the week after Reid had dazzled in the 200m. Kevin Seaward’s fourth in the marathon was a very pleasant surprise and rounded off the week in perfect style for the Ulster athletes.

Superlatives have almost been exhausted in relation to the Irish Paralympians as a team of just 10 athletes claimed nine medals, six gold and three bronze, at the World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin. Star of the show was once again Eglinton sprinter who won both the 100m and 200m in record times. Noelle Lenihan, Orla Barry, Niamh McCarthy and Greta Streimkyte also struck gold while there were appearances too on the presentation dais for Orla Comerford (twice) and Jordan Lee.

Megan Marrs became the first NI athlete for some years to represent Great Britain in a major games when she competed at the World Indoors in Birmingham before making her outdoor debut in British colours at the Athletics World Cup in London’s Olympic Stadium. 

The Golden Generation?

Sommer Lecky

Sommer Lecky (put the perfect cap on an incredible 17th IAAF World Junior (U20) Championships in Tampere, Finland by taking a silver medal in the high jump. The Castlederg teenager cleared 1.90m at the first attempt to clinch second spot and set off celebrations back at her Finn Valley club in Donegal.

It was a silver Saturday for the Irish squad with Mollie Scott, Gina Akpe-Moses, Ciara Neville and Patience Jumbo Gula racing to runner-up spot in the 4 x 100m behind Germany and another national Junior record of 43.90 seconds. That was the first time Ireland had won relay medals in an international championships and the two silvers immediately doubled Ireland’s medal tally for the 32-year existence of these championships with only Antoine Burke (1994/high jump) and Ciara Mageean (2010/1500m) having visited the presentation podium before now.

The success at these championships follows the spectacular medal haul at the European U18 championships in Gyor, Hungary the previous week.  Sarah Healy underlined her immense potential by completing a golden double, running a controlled race to win the 1500m to add to the 3000m gold claimed earlier in the week.

In between Healy’s triumphs, Dublin school girl Rhasidat Adeleke stormed to gold in the 200m. Sonia O’Sullivan’s daughter Sophie finished strongly in the 800m to round off the meeting by taking runner-up spot. That was appropriate given she may be the link between Ireland’s last golden generation headed by the Cobh woman and the current crop of record-breaking juniors. It brought the Irish plunder to an unprecedented three gold and one silver medals and an unthinkable top ten placing among the world’s elite nations in the overall table. 

There were no major championship medals for all-rounder Kate O’Connor but the 17-year-old Dundalk girl enjoyed a remarkable year in which she has set multi-event records both inside and out. In addition to her Commonwealth performance, she also finished fourth in the Tallinn International and has plans to take up a scholarship at the University of Texas next autumn.

Domestic Affairs

International meetings provided the highlights of an interesting domestic year. Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Leon Reid was the star of the Belfast International held in ideal conditions at the Mary Peters Track winning both the 100m and 200m. Despite working on a shoe-string budget the Belfast IMC Meeting provided an excellent afternoon’s sport at the same venue.

Down south the sun shone as the Morton Meeting in Dublin served up its annual generous helping of top class international athletics. Portaferry’s Ciara Mageean showed a return to top form with a fine second place in the 800m. On the 60th anniversary of Australian Herb Elliott’s world record at Santry, American Sam Prakel led ten other men under four minutes with his 3:55.80 timing, albeit slower than Elliott’s record all those years ago.

Bandon Bullet Joan Healy grabbed the headlines Cork City Sports with a national record of 22.99 seconds in the 200m. but unfortunately, there was no Letterkenny International, leaving a huge gap in the northwest calendar.

Kenyan athletes were prominent at the 37th Belfast City Marathon taking the top two spots in the men’s race as well as winning the battle for the women’s crown. Eric Koech crossed the finish line in Ormeau Park with a 2:18:19 timing. Caroline Kepchirchir claimed the women’s title in 2:41:23 but only after overcoming stern opposition from Kilkeel’s Laura Graham.

The African domination of the Dublin City Marathon continued with Ethiopians taking both titles in ideal running conditions. Asefa Bekele moved clear in the later stages to win the men’s race in 2:13:24 with Mesera Dubiso being the first woman in 2:33:49. Kenyans lifted the top prizes at the Antrim International Cross Country with Timothy Cheruiyot and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi proving to be the swiftest in almost ideal conditions[ .


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JASON SMYTH PASSES ON ADVICE FOR NEW CAREER

Sport Northern Ireland’s ambassador for Sport in Business Jason Smyth was delighted to win two gold medals at the European Para Athletics Champions during the summer in Berlin and he is hoping to add to his collect at next year’s World Championships and at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.

DTC sprint star Jason Smyth is preparing for a life after track.

“I was grateful things went as well as they did and even just looking back from Rio I find each year is just building on the next and that sets me up to be in a good place over the next couple of years, the reality is heading into the Paralympics you want to be upping your game,” said Smyth.

“I feel I’m in a good place and hopefully I can stay injury free and keep pushing forward.”

“The next two years are incredibly important, for me just not just being successful I’m 31 what happens over the next two years if I improve and continue to move forward it will have a massive impact on the longevity of my career.”

Unbeaten in 13 years the Eglinton sprinter is determined to keep winning.

“I think when I look back there have been times when my motivation has been higher than others, I think as a base level my motivation is always high, 9I think that whatever do I want to be the best and just not be the best once I want to continue to be the best and I think that is the mind set that drives me to want more.”

“This carer as an athlete is going to last for ever and it is obviously coming to an end in the next number of years, for me I want to continue to be successful and when I finish I’ll look back and I realise what Jason Smyth did everything he possibly could throughout his career to be the best he could and so far I feel I sit in that position and that is where I want to end.”

Harsh New Legislation for Road Races in NI

The future of road running in Northern Ireland is under threat following the introduction of new legislation with the Groomsport Half Marathon scheduled for tomorrow morning being one the casualties.

2 May 2016 – Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye.
2016 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon.
The runners head off along Chichester Street, Belfast.

Already more than a dozen races including high profile events such as the Ards and Cookstown Half Marathons have suffered the axe in the wake of the new laws introduced earlier this year.

While the government in the Republic recently published a ten-year plan to increase participation in sport, new road safety legislation could sound the death knell for the majority of small local running events in the Six Counties. Triathlons are also affected by the legislation while cycling races, but not sportives, and parades are exempt.

Even more alarming is that the responsibility for granting permits for events on roads has been transferred from the PSNI to local councils who have absolute authority in deciding whether an event goes ahead or not. It would seem that the days are gone when athletics clubs would work locally with the PSNI to manage an event.

“To go ahead now, race organisers will have to include a professional traffic management plan with their application and any road closures will have to be handled by that professional company,” said Groomsport organiser Conal Heatley who recently attended a cross party meeting about the legislation at Stormont. “That could put thousands of pounds onto the cost of running a race particularly in rural areas.”

The new legislation was passed by the Assembly and signed off by the then Minister for Infrastructure, but local race organisers feel they were not consulted. The bureaucrats met the requirement to publish notice of the intended legislation in the newspapers but sports organisations feel they should have been asked directly for their input.

It will now take a Minister and Assembly to be in place before these changes can be repealed or even amended. No one will be holding their breath for that to happen any time soon and certainly not before Brexit, if indeed even that happens.

However, this could be the cue for more people to take up track running. Already Eamonn Christie, NI Running’s Ryan Maxwell, the North Down club and Acorns AC have shown that track races can be popular, if organised in the correct manner.

Meantime next year’s fixture list looks like being a lot slimmer with a heap of additional work and financial responsibilities being thrown on the shoulders of already hard-pressed organisers.

While the thrust of the Republic’s government is to get as many people into sport as possible with a target of 50% participation, north of the border we seem to be going full speed in the opposite direction with legislation such as this and the charity laws recently imposed on clubs and associations.

 

MORE REGULATION FOR CLUBS

Athletics clubs can look forward to doing a lot more form-filling and less running/throwing/jumping in future following a government edict. The Charity Commissioners for Northern Ireland require that all amateur clubs come forward to register as charities or they risk falling foul of the law.

In response to a query from The Irish News , the Charity Commissioners issued this statement:-

“In order to address this question it is important to first understand if the sports club meets the legal definition of a charity. The Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 defines a charity as an organisation that: 

  • has exclusively charitable purposes (its purposes fit within one or more of 12 descriptions of purpose listed in the Act, which include the advancement of amateur sport, and are for the public benefit)
  • is governed by the law of Northern Ireland
  • is an institution, that is, it is an organisation that is an independent body, the hallmarks of which include having control and direction over its governance and resources.

If the sports club is capable of meeting the legal definition then it must apply to be registered either as a charity or as a CASC (the choice of which, CASC or charity, is up to the club).

As most athletics clubs in Northern Ireland do not own any club premises or have a taxable source of income, it would seem sensible for them to opt for the latter which would seem to incur less compliance work. To register as a CASC you must provide facilities for eligible sports and encourage people to take part. Under the new rules from 1 April 2015, at least 50% of members must take part in the sport.

Among the requirements are that the club has a formal constitution, known as a governing document, and be open to the whole community. It must also be organised on an amateur basis, have affordable fees and provide facilities in the UK, the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway (but in one country only).

It is the club’s decision whether to register as a CASC or a charity but it needs to be aware that this can be an irrevocable step. Once a charity, it is always a charity. And operating as a charity also brings with it additional regulation and compliance with charity law.

For example, the management committee of the club are charity trustees and have duties to ensure that the club operates for the benefit of the public. However, a club can revoke CASC status and register as a charity but not vice versa.

The Charity Commissioners have also pointed that their concern is not any potential loss of revenue – that is a matter for HMRC – they merely want to ensure that sports clubs are compliant with the law. In any case, all amateur sports clubs must act immediately to avoid breaking the law.

PART TWO

All athletics clubs in the North must register with the Charity Commissioners for Northern Ireland if they do not wish to be in breach of the law. Let’s look at the pros and cons of registering as a charity.

The major advantage of course is that charities do not normally have to pay income/corporation tax, capital gains tax or stamp duty. Gifts to charities are also free of inheritance tax and charities pay no more than 20% of normal business rates on the buildings they occupy. They can also get special VAT treatment in some circumstances and are often able to raise funds from the public, grant-making trusts and local government more easily than non-charitable bodies.

However, there are restrictions on what charities can do, both in terms of the types of work they do, and the ways in which they can operate. A charity must have exclusively charitable purposes meaning that some organisations that may have a range of activities, some of which are not charitable may have stop its non-charitable activities.

Trustees are not allowed to receive financial benefits from the charity they manage unless this is specifically authorised by the governing document of the charity or by the charity commission. Financial benefits include salaries, services or the awarding of business contracts to a trustee’s own business from the charity.

Benefits in lieu of salary etc. are not permitted either but trustees are entitled to be reimbursed for their reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, for example, travel costs to trustee meetings. Trustees must also need to avoid any situation where their personal interests conflict with those of the charity. Charity law imposes strict financial reporting obligations that vary with the size of the charity.

PART THREE – Registering as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC)

We informed above that all amateur sports clubs are required to come forward for registration with the Charity Commissioners for Northern Ireland.  We have also outlined the pros and cons of registering as a charity. In the final part of three, we look at how registering as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) might be the best way forward  for most clubs and associations.

Registering as a CASC can benefit a club in a number of ways not least exemption to corporation tax where turnover in less than £30,000. That is to say if a club makes a profit of say £8000 on a race and the gross income was less than £30,000, there will be no liability.  Clubs can also claim back tax on gifts received but not on annual subscriptions.

However, clubs have to satisfy a number of conditions to be accepted as a CASC including:-

  • It has a formal written constitution;
  • Its membership and facilities are open to the whole community;
  • Its main purpose must be the promotion of participation in, one or more eligible sports;
  • It must be organised on an amateur basis;
  • It is managed by fit and proper persons.

It should be noted that the club’s constitution must state that on dissolution any net assets are to be applied to approved sporting and charitable purposes. The “open to the whole community” means that that the club’s membership and facilities must be open to all without discrimination.

Fees, if charged, must not represent a significant obstacle to membership or use of the club’s facilities. In other words the cannot effectively debar a section of the community by charging extortionate rates of membership. HMRC will normally accept that a club is non-profit making if it can be demonstrated that all profits are reinvested in the club.

Cross border clubs should be aware that the sports club can provide facilities only in a single EU Member State. Individuals convicted of tax fraud or disqualified from acting as a charity trustee are not considered “fit and proper” in this context and would that an application would almost certainly fail. Perhaps, and possibly most important of all, clubs that register as CASCs cannot cancel that registration i.e. once a CASC, always a CASC.

DTC ORGANISE GOAL MILE ON DECEMBER 23

Gideon Kipsang’s family have benefitted from the generosity of DTC members this year.

Derry Track Club is organising a GOAL MILE at Foyle Arena in Derry-Londonderry’s Waterside for the first time on December 23.

The plan is to hold a timed mile on an internal loop of St. Columb’s Park every 30 minutes starting at 10:30am and concluding with a seventh and final mile at 1:30pm.

Everyone who takes part will get a special certificate showing their time – there is nothing to stop anyone making it a training session and doing more than one mile.  Loads of spot prizes.

There is no entry fee – just contribute what you want.  All contributions go 100% to the GOAL charity.  Click here for GOAL Website.

Somewhere in the world last year, one person was driven from their home every three seconds.

“Every day in GOAL, our staff work with families who have been left with no option but to flee their homes because of violence or hunger.

What was long considered a slowly-building crisis, a rapid escalation in numbers over the past five years has now brought on a displacement catastrophe.

A staggering 66 million people are now part of this global issue.

Somewhere in the world last year, one person was driven from their home every three seconds.

In the past 12 months, the problem has worsened again. And that is simply unacceptable.

GOAL is focusing on this theme of ‘Home’ as part of our 2017 Christmas Campaign.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to discover some of the people, and the stories, behind those who have been forced from their home.

You can also donate to our Christmas Campaign by clicking on the button below,” GOAL Charity website.

 

Click Here to Donate

 

Run Through History in this Year’s Greencastle “5”

10 November 2017

A Run Through History is the theme for this year’s Greencastle “5” Mile Road Race on St. Stephen’s Day. It’s the 32nd year of the Tyrone classic that has firmly established itself as the top event of its kind over the Christmas holiday period with well over 1500 runners turning out last year.

Greencastle 5 Organisers Oliver McCullagh (left) and Colm Devlin with Kenyan athlete Gideon Kipsang

This year, race director Oliver McCullagh is laying emphasis on the outstanding depth of history associated with the five mile route on the foothills of the Sperrins.  From the start close by an Ogham stone to the finish along an old coach road once terrorised by a notorious local highwayman, the area is steeped in history and prehistory.

The Aghascrebagh Ogham stone is the only of its kind in Tyrone and is overlooked by Dun Ruadh, a large circular burial cairn constructed 4000 years ago, and clearly visible in the opening mile of the race.

As the course enters the second mile Formil Hill come into view.  According to the Annals of the Four Masters, the Cinel Eoghain (O’Neills) routed the Cinel Conaill (O’Donnells) here in 965 after killing the Donegal men’s leader Maelisa O’Cannon and Moriarty O’Taidhg, heir to the kingdom of Connaught.1 comment awaiting moderation

Historic Sites around Greencastle

The two mile marker sees the field turn on to the Crockanboy Road and head back toward the hamlet of Greencastle, formerly known as Sheskinshule (the moving bog) until the mid-nineteenth century.

The three mile point follows shortly afterwards but it is the right hand turn onto the Mullydoo Road when most runners believe they pass through a portal into another world – of pain and punishment – as they climb the steep 800 metre ascent up to the summit of Crockanboy.

From there it’s all the way downhill to the finish along the road once frequented by the notorious local highwayman and used by Hugh O’Neill as he made his way to Rathmullan for his flight to mainland Europe along with Hugh O’Donnell in 1607.

Most of the roads along the course have been resurfaced in the past 12 months and McCullagh is hopeful that he might see a new race record this year.

“We’re hoping Paul Pollock will be back to go for a four-in-a-row,” said McCullagh.  “He ran well in Leeds last weekend and he could go close to his race record of 24:07 he set three years ago. The road has been fixed and should provide good fast going for everyone looking to improve their times for the race.”

The race will start an hour earlier this year at 12:00 midday but no entries will be accepted on the morning of the race.  Race entry is now open to the 2017 Greencastle “5” at www.greencastle5.com and will close at midnight on December 23.

BIG DOG ADDED TO IPC DEVELOPMENT SQUAD

10 December 2016

By Shane McGowan

Derry Track Club’s Conor McIlveen has been called up to the Irish Paralympic Development panel. Following his successes on the track in 2016, the “Big Dog” moves one step closer to competing at the prestigious IPC World Championships in London, come July.

Conor with his gold medal from the IPC Grand Prix in Berlin last summer.

Despite narrowly missing out on selection for the Rio Paralympic Games, the 26 year old wrapped up his track season with a bittersweet 4th place finish in the T38 category at the IPC European Championships in Grosseto, Italy, over the half-mile distance, whilst also achieving big personal bests in the 800m (2:13.60) and 1500m (4:41.33).

McIlveen will draw on his Paralympic dissapointment as motivation for the up-coming IPC World Championships. For the first time, the IAAF and IPC World Championships will run alongside one another and the Derry track man will be hoping to book his ticket to London this summer.

The “Big Dog” will be looking to join fellow Derry athlete, Jason Smyth, in pulling on the Irish singlet and taking to the track with the World’s top Para-athletes in July – this time however, Conor will be aiming to go one better than Grosseto.

Conor’s coach, Malcolm McCausland, has been very pleased with his athlete’s progress on the track but stresses that there is a long way to go before the pair make the team for next year’s IPC World Championships in London. “The little details like diet and stretching are so important and these are areas we’ll be looking to improve in the next two training mezocycles”.

In preparation for London, McIlveen will complete a stint of warm-weather training with the Development squad at the end of March before commencing his 2017 track season.

Conor’s performances in 2016

OUTSTANDING LETTERKENNY INTERNATIONAL

England’s Lee Emanuel turned in a master class in mile-running to cap an excellent evening of athletics at the Letterkenny International Meeting. A host of international performers astutely spread over the 11 events confirmed the status of the meeting as one of the top gatherings of its kind in the country this year.

Lee Emanuel holds off Rob Fitzgibbon for victory in the mile at Letterkenny.
Lee Emanuel holds off Rob Fitzgibbon for victory in the mile at Letterkenny.

The breeze died down and the late evening sun made an appearance almost on cue for the men’s mile, the final event of the programme. Pacemaker Tom Marshall did an expert job delivering the field to the halfway mark in exactly two minutes.

Emanuel, an European Indoor silver medallist over 3000m last year, found himself at the front of the field perhaps a little early as the Welshman stepped off the track with just less than two laps to run.

The Sheffield & Dearne did not abdicate from the responsibility and led at the bell in exactly three minutes. Emanuel was challenged along the final backstraight by the Rob Fitzgibbon, a 20-year-old with family connections to Portaferry.

The Brighton youngster looked the stronger entering the final 100 metres but the experience of Emanuel told as he drew away to win in 3:59.66, just outside the 3:59.43 record that Juan Luis Barrios set in 2014.

Fitzgibbon was agonisingly close to his first sub-four minute clocking with a 4:00.18 mark while USA athlete Ahmed Bile took third in 4:01.48. Kevin Batt in fifth was the first Irish finisher in 4:04.31. Willowfield’s Andrew Wright was far from disgraced with his 4:11.41 in eighth place.

Earlier Marshall had finished strongly in the 800m only to be held off by compatriot and even faster finisher Elliott Slade. Slade’s modest winning time of 1:53.16 reflected the wind at its strongest toward the start of the meeting.

Shane McGowan salvages a sub two minute clocking despite the conditions.
Shane McGowan salvages a sub two minute clocking despite the conditions.

Derry Track Club’s Shane McGowan faded over the last 200m but still managed to dip under two minutes in difficult conditions with a 1:59.83 timing.  But it is back to the drawing board for Matt Doherty after failing to reproduce his training form and ending up with a disappointing 2:04.37.

Poland’s Paulina Mikiewicz and Monika Halasa played the waiting game to perfection to take first and second in the women’s 800m. Mikiewicz’s 2:04.74 was worth several seconds faster in better conditions. World Masters’ champion Kelly Neely struggled to get to grips with the main field and ended up seventh in 2:08.42.  Poland also supplied the winner of the women’s 400m in Magdalena Gorzkowska with a 54.53 timing.

South Africa’s 45.66 second one lapper Shaun de Jager was a street ahead of the opposition in the men’s 400m despite clocking a mundane 47.10 seconds.  Aaron Carlyle took the final place on the podium to lead home the five DTC athletes in the race.  Carlyle’s time of 53.37 did not reflect the impressive nature of his performance which saw him go through 300m in 37 seconds and small change.

DTC 400m runners.
DTC 400m runners.

Tim Shiels (54.84), Brandon Connolly (56.60), Sean McIntyre (59.43) and Conor McIlveen (59.57) all ran seasonal or personal bests.

Senegal’s Josh Swaray (10.65/-0.9) and another Springbok Hendrik Maartens (21.06/+0.1) traded wins in the 100m and 200m respectively. The women’s 3000m steeplechase, lacking any local interest, went to Germany’s Sanaa Kouba in a very respectable 9:57.45.

Sligo’s Emmet Dunleavy started his finishing sprint too early in the men’s 3000m and was gunned down in the last furlong by American 3:58 miler Jake Hurysz. The winning time was a club standard 8:30.75.

Last minute cry-offs meant that Derry Track Club only had two representatives in the race.   Conán McCaughey made the long journey from his base in Scotland to compete and was rewarded with a 9:00.32 timing.   Conor Doherty made little impact with a 9:17.11 mark.

In the field the Czech Republic’s Petr Frydrych qualified for the Rio Olympics with a massive 84.10m throw. Greece’s Iltsios Georgios also impressed with a best throw of 65.53m and Strabane-Lifford thrower Sean McBride sneaked over 60 metres with a 60.43m mark.

SMYTH TARGETS GOLD IN DOHA

FAMILY MAN SMYTH TARGETS PARALYMPIC GOLD IN DOHA

Family comes first for Ireland’s Jason Smyth despite the Paralympic Athletics World Championships opening this week in Doha. The two-time Paralympic double Paralympic sprint gold medallist is on the comeback trail having undergone minor knee surgery earlier this year.

Jason Smyth in action at NI Champs 2014
Jason Smyth in action at NI Champs 2014

However, that is not the reason the Derry City Track Club athlete will not be defending his 200m title in Qatar. Instead he has a more important fixture at that time – his wife Elise is expected to give birth to their first child.

“My wife is actually due on the 25th of October so that’s probably the more important reason that I’m just doing the 100m,” said Smyth. “I actually arrive back home on the morning of the 25th so it’s going to be a bit close.

“It has been a tricky year and quite a long year. This year there is that aspect of having to take a step back in order to, hopefully, take two steps forward. That’s just something I had to do. It’s been difficult but my expectation is still to go there and win gold.”

The Eglinton man had an operation on his knee earlier this season but nothing serious was found to be amiss. However, the rehabilitation took much longer than expected meaning that Smyth has raced lightly this season. He ran two low-key 100m races at Lee Valley in August before winning the 100m in Rio against the fastest Paralympic sprinters in the world.

The 28-year-old has been living in London for the past couple of years where he is coached by Clarence Callander, Previously he was guided by Stephen Maguire who now heads up Sprints, Hurdles and Relays at UK Athletics. It is probable following the birth of the baby that he might return home to Eglinton on run in to next year’s Rio Paralympics.

Smyth is one of nine Paralympic athletes named to represent Ireland at the IPC World Championships. Belfast man Michael McKillop, like Smyth a double gold medallist at the London Paralympics, is also included in the squad as well as thrower Orla Barry who took bronze in 2012. The IPC Paralympic Athletics World Championships run from October 22 – 31.

THE GREAT RUNNING SHOE SWIZZLE

 ARE YOU CHOOSING THE CORRECT TRAINERS FOR YOU?

Cushioned trainers have dominated the running shoe market for probably at least the last 30 years. These shoes come with a raised heel and, if we believe the makers, include some system or another to prevent over pronation. The makers also consistently claim that these shock-absorbing features minimize the impact of foot strike on the body and thus prevent lower leg injuries. Generally, this type of trainers is significantly higher at the heel than at the point of the toe.

Under Starters Order at Carrickmore 3 Jun 2015 18-42 3 Jun 2015 18-42
Runners on the start line but are they wearing the right shoes?

However with the passing of the years, various studies have found that a high percentage of runners continue to get injured even in the most cushioned of trainers. It has been estimated that you between 30% and 75% of recreational runners tend to be injured once every year (van Mechelen and Van Gent et al), with the knee area (42%) being the most susceptible. Surprisingly, it is becoming increasingly evident that these trainers, rather than prevented injuries, may cause a large portion of them.

Nevertheless, runners are still being taken in by the shoe companies who continue to insist that extra cushioning or anti-pronation will mean fewer injuries. Because of this, most runners use traditional trainers in the belief that the extra cushioning can help them avoid injury by reducing the force of impact on the legs. Thus, brainwashed by the slogan of “extra cushioning, protection and fewer injuries”, runners continue to use extremely high-soled and high-priced shoes.

However, runners continue to get injured in high numbers giving lie to the mantra “extra cushioning, less injuries”.   Although much repeated, few runners realise that there is little, or possibly no, scientific evidence to back up this claim. In fact, recent research points to the opposite. In particular there have been two really interesting studies related to running and training shoes that have come to conclusions that blow apart the traditional “more is better” marketing ploy.

In one of these (Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence based – Richards et al 2008), the investigators reviewed many databases of scientific research with a view to proving that greater shock absorption and/or anti pronation trainers would contribute to less injuries. However, they could find a single research study that demonstrated traditional trainers were useful in either preventing or even diminishing the occurrence of injuries in runners. In fact there was a suggestion that these trainers actually caused injuries.

The researchers concluded: “Biomechanical and epidemiological studies have raised significant questions about the capacity of running shoes incorporating either cushioning, heel elevation or sub-talarcontrol systems to prevent injury and have identified their potential to cause harm.”

A separate study by the University of Virginia looked at the incidence of injury in using minimalist shoes or indeed even barefoot. The research involved a survey of 500 runners who were running in shoes with reduced shock absorption or barefoot. The results were interesting in that they found 64% of the runners did not suffer any new injuries in the minimalist footwear or without any shoes whatsoever. In addition, 69% of the participants recovered from their previous injuries on going minimal.

Obviously if you have been using traditional trainers for some years, a change to minimalist shoes cannot be made overnight. A visit to a podiatrist may also be advisable before any dramatic change in case there may be a more serious underlying reason why you are getting injured more frequently than you would like. But it is worth thinking twice before shelling out well over £100 on a cushioned trainer when a more basic shoe at less than half the price might meet your needs. And it might keep you away from the dreaded physiotherapist’s table!