Thomas Barr ran the second fastest time of his career when finishing 4th in his semi-final of the Men’s 400m Hurdles in Tokyo on Sunday.
His time of 48.26 seconds placed the Waterford athlete in 9th place overall. Unfortunately, he failed to qualify for the final at this his second Olympic Games.
Despite a strong run from Barr, it was always set to be a huge challenge in a high calibre semi-final. The race included the world record holder (Karsten Warholm), the third-fastest man in history (Rai Benjamin), and the man who beat him to bronze in Rio (Yasmani Copello).
With just two automatic places available, Warholm and Benjamin were always favoured, being the only sub-47 second men in the field, proving their class from gun to tape.
Barr started much more aggressively than in his heat, aware of the challengers in the lanes either side of him and tried hard to hang on to those fast starters. He was very well positioned at the halfway mark, which was encouraging for the notoriously fast finisher, but hitting hurdle seven stripped the Irish hurdler of his momentum.
A courageous fight back over the final 120m saw him post a time only bettered by his fourth-place performance in Rio, and he finished 9th overall in these Games – just one spot away from a second consecutive final.
Barr disappointed despite fast time
A disappointed Barr spoke of the effect that the clipped hurdle had on his race, stating:
“I was coming over the hurdle smooth, much faster than I usually do over hurdle seven, but I didn’t bring my trail leg through as quickly as I’m used to, and I just clipped it. It was an inch, and yeah, it completely knocked my momentum. I didn’t feel lactic in my legs, so I was able to recover, but it probably did cost me a place in the final.
“I went into that in PB [Personal Best] shape,” he added. “It’s such a shame, because that’s the second fastest time I’ve ever run, and it’d probably have been a 47-something.”