On Saturday August 11, Leitrim athletics will be thrown onto the world stage when not one but two Leitrim athletes will compete in long distance walking finals at the London games.
First up is Ballinamore’s Colin Griffin in the 50km walk at 9am. A member of the Ballinamore Athletics Club, London will be the second Olympics for the 29-year old.
Race walking events are notoriously difficult, requiring physical and mental strength as an athlete must be in contact with the ground at all times. In Beijing, Colin was disqualified after receiving three warnings. This time round he will be hoping for a better result.
Colin will take great encouragement from the qualifying time of 3:52:55 he posted at the IAAF World Cup in Saransk in Russia on May 13, well inside the 3:59:00 A standard.
After the race, which starts and ends at the iconic Mall in London, Colin will be on hand to watch fellow Leitrim race walker Laura Reynolds go for gold in the 20km walk. Colin will have extra reason to keep an eye as he has coached Laura for the last ten years.
This is Laura’s first Olympics, having qualified just four weeks before the Olympic deadline in June. The 24-year old member of Mohill and District Athletics Club posted a time of 1:32:37 at the IAAF Challenge in La Coruna in Spain, almost a minute inside the required 1:33:30.
Race walking is extremely tough, with athletes requiring incredible amounts of stamina, endurance and mental strength. Athletes must combine their speed and discipline right to the finish as the leading leg must be straight from the moment it is first in contact with the ground, with the technique looking very different to ordinary walking.
While the two Leitrim stars might not notice, the walking routes will take in some of the most iconic parts of London, starting and finishing at The Mall. Athletes race over a 2km loop, taking them up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace, around the Victoria Memorial and up Constitution Hill towards Hyde Park Corner before returning to complete the loop.