Catriona Jennings, Olympic marathon qualifier

UPDATE, 5 August 2012: Sadly, Catriona Jennings had a bad day at the 2012 Olympic women’s marathon– hampered by a foot injury, she showed admirable determination to stay on the road and come home in 3:22:11, almost an hour behind the winner and the last of the 107 finishers. Of the two other Irishwomen in the race, Linda Byrne finished in 2:37:13 for 66th place, with Ava Hutchinson right by her in 2:37:17 for 68th place. The race was won by Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia in 2:23:07.

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Well done to Catriona Jennings, who has qualified for the Olympic marathon. As Athletics Ireland reports, the Letterkenny native and Rathfarnham AC club member ran 2:36:17 in this morning’s Rotterdam Marathon to edge her way inside the Olympic A-standard of 2:37:00.

For the other Irish runners hoping to make the Olympic qualifying time in Rotterdam, it was a day of near misses. On the women’s side, the Belfast-based pair of Breege Connolly and Gladys Ganiel ran 2:40:25 and 2:43:46 respectively while Lizzie Lee of Leevale in Cork ran 2:46:33 in her first-ever marathon. Among the men, Sean Connolly had yet another close run to the men’s A-standard of 2:15:00, finishing in 2:16:42. Gary Thornton was close behind in 2:17:29, with Thomas Frazer hitting a precise 2:20:00.

But spare a thought for Sergiu Ciobanu, the Moldovan who runs for Clonliffe Harriers in Dublin. He finished in Rotterdam in 2:15:27 – an agonising 27 seconds off Olympic qualification.

Jennings’ excellent performance now sets off the selection conundrum we described here. She joins Linda Byrne, Ava Hutchinson and Maria McCambridge in qualifying for the women’s Olympic marathon – but Ireland can only send three competitors. The final selection will be made in May, and it’ll be interesting to see if another Irish woman runs a qualifying time between now and then.

So, which of those three will be sent to London? And who’ll miss out? It’s an exciting situation and better class of problem for Irish athletics.

UPDATE: Jennings, Byrne and Hutchinson selected for the Olympic team but McCambridge misses out. Read on..

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