Not the perfect ending to frustrating season for Waterford woman, writes James Sullivan.

Ireland’s Kelly Proper put in a solid performance at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, to record a clocking of 23.28 in her first round heat of the 200m. However, the multiple national champion finished at the rear of the field, and was therefore eliminated, in a race won by Candyce McGrone of the USA in 22.45.

“It was ok. I was hoping it to be much faster,” said Proper, who finished 32nd overall out of the 49 starters. “I came out here after having two weeks of really intense speed endurance training under my belt, so I was thinking maybe a PB or national record was on, and that was my aim. I think I held my nerve. I was really excited by this all day, but it just didn’t happen. I was expecting big things so it’s very disappointing.”

Running from lane 8, the 27 year old got out to a quick start, and was in contention for a qualifying spot entering the straight, before falling back in the closing stages. “I felt good coming out of the blocks. I was gaining on the girl outside of me. I came off the bend and I said, right I have her passed, and then that next gear just didn’t kick in for me.”

Kelly Proper in action in this evening’s 200m heats in Beijing

Despite her obvious disappointment at not advancing to tomorrow evening’s semi-finals, the fact she had performed to within 0.04 of her season’s best was not fully lost on the Ferrybank athlete. “Most people tend to under-perform in championships. I performed on par with what I’ve been doing all season so it’s not exactly a disaster. Even so, with the training I have done in the last little while, since Nationals, I feel I have upped it a level, but my time hasn’t reflected that.”

The Irish long jump and heptathlon record holder has been a model of consistency this season over the half-lap distance, running between 23.24 and 23.30 on countless occasions, but she believes that the need to chase the qualifying standard of 23.20 throughout this summer, has hampered her ability to reach a peak. “I ran 23.26 in Geneva in my second race out, and if that had been 23.50, I would have trained for four weeks and then gone out and tried to get the standard. But because I was 0.06 away, we kept going. Then I was 0.04 away, so we kept going. Then we said, when we get it next week, then we’ll train. So I just never got to train properly.”

“When you’re chasing standards all the time you’re not training. When you are competing at the weekend you are training for three days, you’re travelling, you’re resting and then you’re competing. So I think it wasn’t an ideal season.”

The IAAF introduced a different system of qualification this season, replacing the old A and B standards with just one entry mark, along with a quota system for any unfilled places, the route Proper reached Beijing through. Despite feeling under pressure to reach this target all season, the Waterford woman believes the new qualification criteria works better than the old system. “I think if I had got a B-standard for this, I wouldn’t have been brought because of my age, no matter what my potential, no matter when I started concentrating on this event. So I think it’s good to have one standard, I think the quota system is good because I think somebody coming in under the quota can make it through the rounds.”

With her first global championship experience under her belt, Proper will now look to the Olympic Games next year. However, she is in no rush to achieve the qualification mark, and will avoid any temptation to keep chasing it this season. “I’ve been travelling so much. I’ve been racing so much. I’ve confidence in what I’ve been doing, in my coaches and in my programme.”

This is probably the most consistent I’ve been in my life but I’d hope to be a bit faster consistently. I’m looking forward to getting back training next year. It’s a big year.”

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