IT was another jam-packed afternoon and evening in Tokyo for Team Ireland today, with a host of Irish athletes in action across a range of disciplines.
Three-time Olympian Natalya Coyle got off to an impressive start in the Women’s Individual Fencing Round, and will now go into Day Two of her event lying in joint third position with a total of 238 points.
Elsewhere, the first Athletics action from Sapporo got underway with the Men’s 20km Race Walk this afternoon, which featured Team Ireland’s David Kenny. Kenny put in an excellent performance in his first Olympic Games to finish 29th in a time of 1:26:54.
Cyclist Mark Downey also made his Olympic debut in Tokyo this afternoon in the Men’s Omnium, finishing in 17th place with 18 points overall.
Meanwhile, it was the second day of play at Kasumigaseki County Club for the Women’s Individual Stroke Play. With two rounds completed, Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire jumped towards the top of the leader board with rounds of 66 and 67 respectively and are now tied for 11th.
Andrew Coscoran rounded out the evening with a superb 10th place finish in his Men’s 1500m semi-final, crossing the line in a time of 3:35.84.
The first Athletics action from Sapporo got underway this afternoon, with the Men’s 20km Race Walk featuring Team Ireland’s David Kenny, who put in an excellent performance in his first Olympic Games to finish 29th in a time of 1:26:54.
Coached by Ireland’s Race-Walking Olympic Bronze medallist, Robert Heffernan, Kenny had previously picked up silver at last month’s European U23s, so had confidence on his side going in. He made steady progress throughout the first half of the race, sitting in the mid-30 placings throughout, before moving to 32nd at 10km. He continued to pick off those ahead of him over the next 5km, before breaking into the top thirty with just 2km to go, to cross the line in 29th.
Ranked 56th going into the race, 22-year-old Kenny’s performance showed both his talent and potential, in extremely tough conditions, with the leaders posting times over three minutes down on their Personal Bests.
“Happy enough with the performance, I came in ranked 56th so with a top 30 finish, I’m happy enough. A great experience really,” said Kenny afterwards. “I came through strong, probably the most mature I’ve raced to date. I came though strong and kept fighting towards the end, so I’m happy enough with my performance and hopefully, more to come.”
TRACK AND FIELD
It was yet another composed performance at the very top level from Andrew Coscoran in the Men’s 1500m, taking 10th place in his semi-final, in a time of 3:35.84.
The Balbriggan athlete posted the second fastest time of his career, and with just top 5 advancing to the final (plus two time-qualifiers), his Olympic Games finishes with a 20th place ranking overall.
A quick opening lap set the tone of the race, with the Irishman needing to have his wits about him from the gun to stay in contention. Coscoran stayed connected to the race throughout, sitting at the back of the main pack and hoping to produce a fast final 100m like in his heat, but ultimately those ahead of him held on.
Noting the fast early pace and his plan for the race, Coscoran said: “A 56 second flat first lap will take the steam out of you fairly quickly…The plan was to stay connected to the pack. No matter where the pack was…in the heats I let a little bit of a gap open so the plan was to not let that happen.”
Proud of his two races in his Olympic Games debut he added; “It was a good race, it was good for me. The heats was probably the best race of my life, and then that was the best race of my life…I think I did better than what I was expected to do and I think that’s because of all the race experience I’ve had in the entire season”.
The second semi-final was won in an Olympic record by Abel Kipsang of Kenya, and a time qualifier position would have required an Irish record, or three-second PB from the Irishman.
CYCLING – TRACK
Mark Downey made his Olympic debut in Tokyo this afternoon in the Men’s Omnium, following in the footsteps of his father Seamus who competed at the 1984 LA Games. The gruelling four-event Omnium was the first event on Downey’s race schedule at the Games, as he also teams up with Felix English on Saturday for their preferred event, the Madison, raced over 50-kilometers or 200-laps.
After four rounds – the Scratch Race, Tempo Race, Elimination Race and Points Race – Downey finished in 17th position with a haul of 18 points. Downey started with a 16th place finish in the Scratch race, which is a classic first-across-the-line race over 15km for men. Five riders gained a lap on the field, while Downey sprinted with a large bunch all fighting for places.
There was disappointment for Downey in the Tempo race though, as he was pipped for a point mid-way through the race. The all-out effort saw him drop the wheel and loose a lap along with Andreas Mueller of Austria and David Maree of South Africa. That resulted in a 20-point deduction which put Downey in 19th place. The Elimination race followed, which sees the last rider to cross the line at each intermediate sprint eliminated. Selections are made every two laps, and with speeds averaging 55kph, Downey suffered an early elimination finishing 19th.
With Downey out of contention going into the Points Race it was a case of keeping out of trouble and keeping the legs fresh for Team Ireland’s target event on Saturday, and he climbed the overall rankings to finish 17th overall.
Speaking after the race Downey said: “Yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect… I’m an athlete, I like to compete, but look it’s my first Omnium at this level. I threw the kitchen sink at it. It’s not a banging result, it is what it is.”
“We got this race off the back of the Madison, so I’m looking forward to going again with Felix. He’s super motivated back in the hotel so I’m not too disappointed with the result. The level we know is really, really high here so I can’t be too disappointed, and we’ll move forward again.”
Head Coach and 2012 Olympian Martyn Irvine added: “Not the race we wanted but it shows we haven’t focused on it in preparation and training. Given the year that’s in it, we were just happy to get a start on the race. It has set us up to build from here, the level has raised, it’s amazing to see what people have actually done through Covid.”
“We have shifted our focus to the main event of this week for us, the last two years we have focused on the Men’s Madison and that’s the main goal on our side.”
It was the second day of play at Kasumigaseki County Club for the women’s individual stroke play. With two rounds completed, Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire jumped towards the top of the leader board with rounds of 66 and 67 respectively.
Overnight, the pair sat in tied 36th and tied 22nd place and were determined to make a move towards the medal positions. At the end of play on Thursday, they have both moved into a tie for 11th. Nelly Korda (USA) fired a superb round of 62 which gives her a 4-shot advantage over Aditi Ashok (India), Nicole Koerstz-Madsen (Denmark) and Emily Kristine Pedersen (Denmark) who are tied for the silver medal on 9-under.
Already with five birdies on her card before reaching her final hole of the day, Maguire signed for her 4-under par round by finishing off with an additional birdie. She credited her opportunity creation for her score, something she struggled with on day one.
“I played a lot better today and gave myself a lot more chances,” said the Cavan native. “I didn’t get off to the best of starts but I chipped in on 4 and I kind of feel like that turned the day for me. I then went on and had 3 birdies in a row on 6, 7 and 8 which was nice. It felt like I played quite solid today. There were a few putts that, had they gone in, it would have completely changed the day, but it was nice to finish with a birdie on 18 to head into tomorrow.”
Upon finishing her round, Maguire was also delighted to hear of boxer Kellie Harrington securing her place in the gold medal fight to take place this coming Sunday.
“What Kellie is doing is incredible,” Maguire said. “She was one of the first people I met when I got into the village last week. I’d love to see her win a gold medal, she really deserves it. It’s great to see the community and people at home rallying around her. I’m fortunate where I’m from it’s the same as well. If we can finish off this week on a high note and she can go win a gold medal on Sunday, that would be great.”
Three-time Olympian, Natalya Coyle, got her Tokyo Olympic Games campaign underway today with an impressive opener in the Women’s Individual Fencing Round. Coyle goes into day two lying in joint third position with a total of 238 points. Over the course of 17 rounds, the athletes competed in one minute bouts against each other, with the total victories and defeats resulting in points that are accumulated and contribute to the overall total. Coyle’s final points reflect a total of 23 victories/12 defeats.
The Meath athlete took to the piste in confident style, immediately moving towards the top of the leaderboard, maintaining her place in consistent fashion throughout the bouts, with a really strong showing in the first half of the competition.
Keeping her composure over the course of the session, Coyle said that she enjoyed her competition opener: “It was really good. I don’t even know the results yet, I don’t think I’ll look, because Pentathlon is one out of five. I know it started off really well, and I just feel really happy. I’m really glad to have done all the training and my coaches justice, so I’m really happy with that anyway.”
Coyle started strong and kept the pressure on throughout the round. For the first time the fencing event was held on a different day to the remaining swim, horse ride, and laser run, something she took advantage of, “I was very pumped the whole way through there. Normally I try to conserve some energy, but we have more time, so I was pretty excited for each hit. It’s a long time where there’s a lot of mental energy expended. I think it’s three hours, but it flies by, I can’t believe it’s over.”
Fencing is a discipline that Coyle has done specific work on over the past few years, and that work was evident with today’s performance, “I was really lucky in the Team Ireland holding camp in Fukuroi that I could bring some good fencers, and I think it showed out there in the piste today, it definitely helped. It’s the Olympics, the pinnacle of every sport, so you’re pretty much up for every fight. I think the big thing is to not ride every loss and normally say don’t ride the highs, but I think I rode them pretty well in the arena. Normally I try to stay calm in between rounds and just let it out on the piste.”
Tomorrow, Coyle will contest the 200m Freestyle Swimming, Fencing Bonus Round, Show Jumping and the Laser Run, and the athlete with the highest number of points at the end of all disciplines is deemed the winner.