WITH a time almost nine seconds inside her previous best, Leevale athlete Michelle Finn achieved the Olympic qualifying standard for the 3,000m steeplechase on the first day (Monday) of the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland.
Finishing a brilliant second to Wifred Yavi from Bahrain who set a stadium record of 9:17.55, Finn’s time of 9:29.25 was marginally inside the 9:30.00 qualifying mark for Tokyo.
It was also just outside the previous stadium best of 9:28.49 set by Salima Alami six years ago.
The 31-year-old Kanturk native now moves into second place on the Irish all-time list, less than a second behind Róisin McGettigan’s 9:28.29 national record which has stood since 2007.
Her performance came just two days after she acted as pacemaker at the European Cup 10,000m in Birmingham where her Leevale clubmate, Lizzie Lee, also achieved a personal best for that distance of 33:04.50.
Also on the first day of the two-day meet, Thomas Barr achieved an automatic qualifying time for Tokyo when recording a huge season’s best of 48.39 for the 400m hurdles.
In defeating Estonia’s Rasmus Magi, this was Barr’s quickest-ever time outside a championship and his fastest since winning a European bronze medal in 2018.
The iconic Paavo Nurmi Games, now part of the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold, first took place in 1957 on the 60th birthday of the legendary Finnish runner that bears his name.
Nurmi was the dominant force in world long-distance running in the 1920s, capturing nine gold medals in three Olympic Games, 1920, 1924, 1928 - as well as three silvers.
For eight years from 1923 onwards he held the world record for the mile with a time of 4:10.4 and during a famous career established 25 world records at various distances.