Irish middle distance prospect Ó Lionáird follows in the footsteps of Farah | 07.10.2011
Ireland's World Championships 1500m finallist Ciarán Ó Lionáird, his country's top male athlete in Daegu, will team up with Great Britain's Mo Farah in a bid to further his career and get on the podium at the 2012 Olympic Games next summer.
The 23-year-old Irishman, who hails from Cork, might have previously slipped below many people's radar.
He finished a distant 76th in the 2010 SPAR European Cross Country Championships under 23 race last December, although he was part of the Ireland squad that took the team gold medals.
However, he made a huge improvement on the track this summer, timing his peak to perfection.
He took more than six seconds off his previous best when he clocked 3:34.46 at a meeting in the Belgian town of Oordegen on August 2, right on the deadline for World Championships entries, to book his seat on the plane to Korea.
Ó Lionáird then went on to impress in Daegu, negotiating his way with aplomb through the heats and semi-finals before finishing 10th in the final, the third European across the line behind Spain's Manuel Olmedo and France's Mehdi Baala, who were fourth and ninth respectively.
He has now linked up with Farah, the 2011 World Championships 5000m gold medallist and European 10,000m record holder, along with his coach Alberto Salazar, and moved to Oregon as part of his quest to get a medal in London, next summer.
“I’d actually sent him (Salazar) a couple of videos from my college races, just to put something in his head, in case anything happened later in the year,” said Ó Lionáird, talking to the Irish Times for an article published on Saturday.
“It was something I had in my mind, to be part of that group that was so successful. After my 3:34 things started to open up; I ended up meeting Salazar a few times in Daegu and then it all came together in the last week or so.
“There are a lot of your own costs up front... a lot of things I’ve got to foot the bill for. But once I knew I’d be in the same situation as Mo then I was happy. I’m lucky now that the (Irish) Sports Council grant can help out.
“But I’m committed, and they’re committed. The fact that it’s another foreigner joining the group shows that.”
Among the things Ó Lionáird has to help pay for is the complete sealing of his new apartment, which effectively becomes a high-altitude chamber, and one of the things Salazar insists on.
“That’s €20,000 right there but Salazar made the point that I could feel like a rich kid living in a college town, but to make the jump, it’s a big investment, hopefully for a big pay-off.
“Tallahassee (where he was a student at Florida State University) was unbelievably good to me, but now I’m a full-time athlete, without classes.
“This is the whole package, proper focus 24/7, all year round. It also means having a coach with me year round, and training with the really top guys; that’s what it takes to get to the top level, to win Olympic medals, and that’s what I’m looking for,” added Ó Lionáird, who has his own website www.mad-len.com where describes in more detail his breakthrough year and move to link up with Farah.