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Difficult decision was made easy for Sinead Diver and Tim Crosbie, writes James Sullivan.

Sinead Diver’s coach, Tim Crosbie, has explained the decision for her to represent her nation of residence Australia at this year’s World Championships in Beijing, rather than her homeland Ireland. The 38 year old County Mayo woman came home an impressive 21st in this morning’s marathon, finishing as the leading Australian of the three representatives. Crosbie admitted to it being an extremely difficult decision, with both countries being very much close to her heart.

“It was pulling at the heart strings for Sinead,” remarked Crosbie, after this morning’s race. “Her heritage is Irish. She has been there most of her life. Her parents are in Ireland, most of her family are still in Ireland and a lot of her friends are in Ireland.”

After putting a significant amount of thought into the various options, Crosbie admitted that the decision came down to there being more athlete support and opportunity in Australia. “Some of the critical things were the ability for her to do these championships. Ireland weren’t going to give her that opportunity, by setting what I believe to be a ridiculous qualification time for this particular event. I just thought that they went well out of their way to make it difficult.”

Sinead Diver (right) passes the entrance to Tiananmen Square in this morning’s marathon

The IAAF qualification standard for the women’s marathon in Beijing was 2:44:00, while the standard set by Athletics Ireland was 2:33:30, over 10 minutes quicker. Diver’s marathon time of 2:34:15 from Melbourne last year was well inside the former, but slightly outside the latter. The Melbourne based coach remarked that Australia suffered from similar adjusting of standards in the past, but have changed their approach with regards to athlete selection in recent times.

“Australia went down that path a few years ago. Where did it lead us? Nowhere. Now that Australia have been much more realistic with their targets, this is now aspirational and what does that do? It brings up the level. If you set such hard targets, athletes are so disheartened, they don’t even try. So my message to Ireland, don’t go down that path. Make these things aspirational. Make sure people have got a reason to keep up that hard training.”

Diver, who took up the sport just five years ago, at the age of 33 after discovering her hidden talent at a corporate fun run, has been living in Australia since she was 25, and is based in Melbourne, and runs with South Melbourne AC. Her appearance in Beijing is only the beginning of her international ambitions, and while next year’s Olympic Games are a big goal, Crosbie mentioned that the decision to represent Australia was based around general opportunity in the sport, as opposed to just Rio next year, where competition to make the Australian team will in fact be a lot tougher.

“There’s the World Cross Country. 24 Australians went, no Irish. I can’t understand that. The World Cross Country is one of the pre-eminent events. Sure they go to the Europeans, but there are no Ethiopians, no Kenyans there. It’s nice to be a big fish in the little pond, but come to the world stage. At least Australia now have got the balls to do that.”

However, he commented on the overwhelming support Diver has received from people back in Ireland in the lead up to Beijing. “The support we get off the people in Ireland is magnificent. She said to me a little while ago ‘Tim, I’m running for two countries, it doesn’t matter what uniform I’ve got on’. If you had noticed her fingernails today, it was green, gold and white, so she was wearing the colours of Ireland today too. She’s very proud, knowing that Ireland supports her, and the messages she has been getting are wonderful. We are both really touched by that.”

While stating that the competition for places on the Australian Olympic team will be fierce, Crosbie believes that Diver has what it takes to book her seat on the plane to Rio. “I think she can break 2:30 and I wouldn’t be surprised with a 2:28. I think she does have the talent. Looking at the way she trains and her dedication to training, I wouldn’t be surprised with a 2:28 at some stage. Hopefully she can get to 2:30, and if she can do that, the Australian team beckons for Rio.”

“She is such a wonderful person to work with. The easiest person I’ve ever coached and yet she’s the highest level I’ve ever coached.”

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