On Friday evening 10th July at the Sub-4 International Meeting at the Danny McDaid Track in Letterkenny, Kerry O’Flaherty finished second to American Jamie Cheever (9:40.99) in a big new personal best of 9:42.61. This is inside the qualifying time for this year’s World Championships in Beijing and for next year’s Rio Olympics.
Kerry had set her previous best of 9:51.64 in Huelva in Spain last month in windy conditions. Conditions in Letterkenny were a little windy but the field that Meeting Director Darragh McDaid had assembled was an excellent one. Polish athlete Matylda Kowal was the official pacemaker to 2k going through the first km in 3:13 and then 6:30. As she dropped out there were three Irish, five Americans and a Ugandan in contention. Over the final water barrier with 150 metres to go there were three girls neck and neck – Cheever, O’Flaherty and compatriot from Cork, Michelle Finn. With a 3:12 final km and a last lap of 74 seconds, O’Flaherty secured the two qualifying times. Behind her in 3rd Michelle Finn (9:43.4) also secured Beijing and Rio times, in 4th Sara Treacy from Meath (9:44.14) also secured the Olympic time but was just outside the World standard (9:44.0).
Commentators in the media are describing it as a historic night in Irish athletics with, on the first time three Irish athletes have secured the Olympic Standard in the one race and it was also the fastest ever women’s steeplechase on Irish soil. This time moves Kerry up to 3rd place on the Irish all-time list behind Olympians Roisin McGettigan and Fionnuala Britton.