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Things are going in the right direction for Thomas Barr after a difficult few months, writes James Sullivan.

Ireland’s Thomas Barr put in an impressive performance in claiming victory in heat 1 of the 400m hurdles at the European Championships in Amsterdam this evening, advancing to tomorrow evening’s semi-final. The Ferrybank athlete clocked a season’s best of 50.17 in only his third race of an injury ravaged season.

“I kind of eased off a bit, and switched off on the top bend as I sometimes tend to do, but then kicked home hard,” said a relieved Barr in the aftermath. “Down the back straight at the top bend I didn’t get the right stride pattern that I usually would, but at least I know for tomorrow I can confidently get it. I know I can push on a bit more tomorrow.”

Irish record holder Barr, who had an outstanding 2015, claiming gold at the World University Games and finishing 11th at the World Championships in Beijing, has had a frustrating year, missing 11 weeks of training as a result of a hip injury.

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Thomas Barr

“This season every race and every day is a bonus because I was out for so long. I’m just glad to be back running, and I’m taking each race as practice. I’m going into it with no expectation, no pressure.”

On last year’s form, the Waterford athlete would have been a strong medal hope, and would have received a bye to the semi-finals, as part of a new format introduced for these championships where the top 12 ranked athletes this year qualify automatically, without the need to run the heats. However, the 23 year old believes that it will work in his favour having run an extra round ahead of tomorrow.

“If I was thrown straight into a semi final where it’s run like a final I could have been swallowed up. Mentally I don’t think I would have been ready. This has given me the perfect confidence boost.”

Regardless of how the rest of the championships go, Barr has his eye fixed firmly on the main goal, the Rio Olympics next month.

“I didn’t come in here as a medal hope, I didn’t come in here as a finalist, so for me, everything here on in is a bonus. If I can get through these championships unscathed, then it’s one more step towards the Olympics.”

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