Barr caps his indoor season with victory at home in Athlone

Thomas Barr in Athlone

Ireland's Thomas Barr was among the winners at the AIT International Grand Prix in Athlone. Photo credit: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

After illness forced him to pull out of the semifinals at the IAAF World Championships in London last summer, Ireland’s Thomas Barr now very much has sights on the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships in August.

In his last race of an abbreviated winter campaign on home soil at the AIT International Grand Prix in Athlone on Wednesday (22) night, a European Athletics Indoor Permit Meeting, Barr stopped the clock in the 400m flat 46.94 ahead of Portugal’s Ricardo Dos Santos in 47.22 and Great Britain’s Sebastian Rodger in 47.59. 

Looking ahead to Berlin, the Olympic Games fourth-placer told “If I can stay in good shape, stay injury-free, it should all work out. I know I am in good shape and it is boding quite well.” 

Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui had a memorable 2017 season winning medals over 1500m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships and European Athletics U23 Championships and she produced a fine victory in her specialist event. 

In a time of 4:10.63, Ennaoui beat Germany’s European 3000m steeplechase champion Gesa-Felicitas Krause, second in 4:11.71, and Australian Zoe Buckman, third in 4:12.03. There was also a noteworthy performance from Natalia Evangelidou who was fifth in a Cypriot indoor record of 4:14.62. 

Making the podium in Belgrade 12 months ago was impressive in its own right behind two of Europe’s biggest stars of last year, as Laura Muir won ahead of Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen, and now Ennaoui will look to be in the mix again this summer in Berlin. 

In front of a sell-out crowd, it was a memorable evening for Ireland as Dubliner John Travers, 26, ran his way into the record books as the first Irishman to break four minutes for the mile indoors at home. He was third in 3:59.40 as Australian Ryan Gregson won in 3:57.86 from Poland’s Grzegorz Kalinowski in 3:59.19. 

Spanish veteran Kevin Lopez won the men’s 800m in 1:47.43 from Ireland’s Mark English (1:47.48) and Poland’s Mateusz Borkowski (1:48.20) and the Netherlands’ Danaid Prinsen, 20, took a chunk off her personal best of 2:03.96 as she won the women’s 800m in 2:02.29 from Latvia’s Liga Velvere (2:02.51) and Ireland’s Clare Mooney (2:03.56). 

The Dutch took the honours in the 60m with another good win for Naomi Sedney in 7.30 from Tahesia Harrigan of the British Virgin Islands in 7.35 while her Dutch teammate Eefje Boons ran a personal best of 8.10 as she finished second in the 60m hurdles behind Nigeria’s Lindsay Lindley who won in 8.04. 

And the crowd were treated to a superb men’s pole vault from one of the stars of London last summer as American gold medallist Sam Kendricks went over at 5.70m to beat the man he succeeded as world champion - Canada’s Shawn Barber who as second with 5.60m - with Latvia’s Mareks Arents third with 5.50m.