Road to Paris: Irish Stars Compete for Olympic Spots at Paavo Nurmi Games

June 18, 2024

Less than a week after the conclusion of the European Athletics Championships, Irish athletes were back in action at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku. With the exception of Sarah Lavin, none of the athletes competing had yet secured the coveted Olympic qualification, meaning it was an open field on a sunny evening in Finland.

First up for the Irish was European gold medallist Thomas Barr, who took to the track for the Men's 400m Hurdles, hoping to book his place in the French capital later this summer. However, it was a challenging outing for the Ferrybank AC athlete, as he finished 4th with a time of 49.46, just short of the 48.70 Olympic standard.

Next up was Cork native Louise Shanahan in the Women’s 800m. It was not her day, as she finished 10th with a time of 2:02.59, which, while outside the Olympic qualifying time, was still a season’s best for her.

The third race of the day featuring Irish athletes was the Men's 1500m, where Cathal Doyle and Luke McCann hit the track and secured an impressive one-two finish for Ireland. Cathal posted a winning time of 3:34.09, a personal best, closely followed by Luke with a time of 3:34.32. However, neither of their times met the Olympic standard of 3:33.50.

The luck of the Irish in Turku finally changed in the Men’s 800m, with Donegal native Mark English taking to the starting blocks, hoping to turn his fortunes around after a setback in Rome. Indeed, he achieved just that, finishing 2nd in a stellar performance that not only secured his plane ticket to Paris but also set a new national record. His finishing time was 1:44.69, just inside the Olympic standard of 1:44.70.

The final Irish athlete in action was Emerald AC star Sarah Lavin in the Women’s 100m Hurdles final, having qualified from a heat earlier in the evening. She was the only Irish athlete to have already booked a spot to Rome prior to the meet. She finished 3rd in a very competitive lineup, posting an Olympic standard and season’s best time of 12.66.

Paavo Nurmi Games Results

Thomas Barr – Men’s 400m Hurdles – 4th - 49.46

Louise Shanahan – Women’s 800m – 10th - 2:02.59 SB

Cathal Doyle – Men’s 1500m – 1st – 3:34.09 PB

Luke McCann – Men’s 1500m – 2nd – 3:34.32

Mark English – Men’s 800m – 2nd - 1:44.69 NR & Olympic QT

Sarah Lavin – Women’s 100m Hurdles (Heat) – 4th – 12.83

Sarah Lavin – Women’s 100m Hurdles (Final) – 3rd – 12.66 SB

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