Despite technical errors, Thomas Barr comfortably advances from first round heat at World Championships, writes James Sullivan.

Ireland’s Thomas Barr qualified for the semi-finals of the men’s 400m hurdles at the World Championships in Beijing this evening. The Ferrybank athlete finished in third place from lane 9, with a clocking of 49.20, to comfortably achieve one of the four automatic qualifying spots from the fourth of five heats.

The race was won by Yasmani Copello of Turkey, who recorded a sizeable national record of 48.89, while one of the leading medal favourites, USA’s Bershawn Jackson, surprisingly failed to advance.

Thomas Barr

“The Turkish guy was up on me by hurdle three or four, and I didn’t expect him to be that fast” remarked Barr afterwards. “I was just thinking if he was going past, then where the hell is Jackson going to be. But to be honest I was just trying to focus on my own race.  It was not ideal that I had to do so much work coming down the home straight, but I’m just glad I had that kick there today.”

Despite advancing with enough to spare in the end, the 23 year old was not entirely satisfied with his performance, and believes he can make a significant improvement in tomorrow evening’s semi final. “I only got 13 strides as far as I think hurdle five, and I then got two gaps of 14s and then 15s home, which is really not ideal, especially in this calibre of a race. I shouldn’t be making that kind of mistake at this stage of the season. But it’s something to work on tomorrow.”

“I was hoping for a faster time, as the rest of the heats were quite fast. Lane 9 was tough to try gauge anything. I don’t really like the outside lane.”

However, the recently crowned World University Games champion will face a similar challenge tomorrow evening, as he has been drawn in lane 9 again, in the first of three semi finals. However the Waterford man remains confident that he can do himself justice and strongly challenge for a place in the final. “It’s going to take a low 48. Definitely considering what was run out there today. I’m going to have to run a PB if I’m going to want to get into this final.”

“I think I have it in me. I’m not going to call it yet. I felt good out there, so if I can get a technically much better race tomorrow then it’s possible. I’m going to have to run the race of my life, and if it all comes together, then well and good, I could be in the final.”

Having been ranked in the world’s top ten entering the championships, Barr was fully expected to advance, but the Irish record holder now believes that the pressure is off for tomorrow’s semi-final, given how this evening’s heats transpired. “There was a big shake up today with a lot of guys running fast. There were a lot of season’s bests and personal bests out there today, so to me it has taken the pressure off a little bit, but that’s not to say I’m going to ease the pressure off on myself.”

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