THE long wait for the beginning of the Olympic Games in Tokyo is almost over.
The continuing Coronavirus pandemic across the globe had wreaked havoc on plans to host the event in the capital of Japan in 2020 but finally, after over a year of turbulence and much change, it is finally set to commence this weekend.
It will still be called Tokyo 2020 though and it will run from tomorrow until August 8.
Unfortunately, with the Japanese government declaring a state of emergency in the country recently because of a huge outbreak of Covid-19, the athletes won’t be roared on by the potentially huge numbers of Irish fans that would have attended, or any fans at all for that matter.
But in more positive news for Irish fans, Team Ireland will be taking a sensational total of 116 athletes to the Games, the biggest team in its history with its previous high being 81 athletes for London 1948.
Despite the huge number at that event 73 years ago, Ireland failed to secure a single medal but, with the high level of athletes they have at present, they will be confident of doing better this time around.
The last time Tokyo held an Olympics was back in 1964 and only one member of Team Ireland that travelled back then was female.
But in athletics, in particular, there are four other Leesiders alongside Healy that we look forward to seeing fly the Ireland flag - and maybe even the Cork flag as well if they get the chance - which we have outlined for you below including when they are set to compete although that is subject to change.
Whatever happens at this Olympics, Louise Shanahan has already enjoyed a hugely successful year. After a couple of near misses over the last few seasons, the Rochestown native won her first national senior 800-metre title in Santry back in June, controlling the race throughout before kicking for home in the final straight to secure the victory in a time of 2:03.62. It was a performance that deservedly earned her one of the Echo’s prestigious Women in Sport awards for Spring and Summer, but more importantly for the Leevale AC runner, it secured her a place at the upcoming Olympics.
Alex Wright is another member of Leevale AC that will be showcasing his talents at the Olympics in Tokyo having booked his place with a personal best performance in Spain at the beginning of June. Wright was competing at Gran Premio Cantones de La Coruna and the 20km race walker finished in a time of 1:20:50 to secure his spot at the Games by finishing just under the Tokyo qualifying standard time of 1:21:00.
Born in London, Wright had initially hoped his first Olympics would be in his hometown in 2021 competing for Great Britain but instead, he made his debut at the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 racing for Ireland, whom a few years later he would lead to its first European team bronze medal. Wright was convinced to move to Cork by the legendary race walker Rob Heffernan and he has gone from strength to strength under his tutelage, which he hopes will continue in the weeks ahead. He will test himself in the Men's 50km Race Walk Final which will take place on Saturday morning August 7 from 3:30 am Irish time at the Sapporo Odori Park.
And last, but certainly not least, is Ireland’s fastest woman; Phil Healy. The Ballineen Bullet has already endured an incredible racing career that eclipses most others but she has still somehow managed to get even better in 2021. Healy opened her year with a 400 metre personal best of 51.99 in Abbotstown two weeks before driving to victory in both her heat and semi-final at the European Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland.
In the final, the Bandon AC runner narrowly missed out on a medal but her fourth-place finish proved that she could compete with the best.
And now, after making her mark already in Ireland and in Europe during the first half of this year, next up for Healy is the Olympics - the biggest stage of them all - where she will be hoping to enjoy more success in the 200m, 400m, and mixed relay. Her quest for glory, and a busy few days, begins on Saturday week with round one of the mixed relay starting between the early hours of 3am and 5am, round one of the Women’s 200m is set for Monday, August 2 between 5pm and 7.55pm while round one of the Women’s 400m is to take place Tuesday, August 3 between 5pm and 7:55 pm. All three are in Irish time and will be held at the Olympic Stadium.