Ahead of the Rio Olympics this is how Ireland’s fastest athletes compare with the world’s elite 7 years ago

Ahead of the Rio Olympics this is how Ireland’s fastest athletes compare with the world’s elite

August 5th marks the start of the Rio Olympics and Team Ireland will have 17 track and field stars aiming for the performance of a lifetime.

Recording personal bests will be the lowest bar these Irish athletes set for themselves. All 17 are aiming much higher.


Up against them however are some of the stealthiest, canniest and hardiest specimens to ever grace an Olympic Games. Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, David Rushida, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce all scorched the London 2012 track for Olympic gold in their respective fields and will be back to battle against a confident set of up-and-comers.

Team Ireland do have some medal hopes going into the Games, with Rob Heffernan, Fionnuala McCormack and newly-crowned European bronze medallist Ciara Mageean all travelling to Brazil in hope.

To give you an idea of the enormity of the challenge facing Ireland's fastest athletes, here is how their top times compare to the very best the athletics world has ever produced.

Current crop


Mark English

The 800 metre runner set his PB in 2013 with a time of 1:44.84. It was even quicker than the time that claimed him a European bronze medal the following year.

Kenyan dynamo David Rushida, who has trained under Irish coach Colm O'Connell, set a world record 800m time of 1:40.91 at the London Games in 2012.

Fionnuala McCormack


As Fionnuala Britton, the Wicklow star claimed European Championship gold, in 2011 and 2012. Now proudly representing the McCormack name, she has qualified for the 10,000m and Marathon disciplines. Her 10,000m record is 31:29.22.

The world record for the 10,000 km is 23 years and standing. The time of 29:31.78 was set by Wang Junxia of China.

Rob Heffernan

The Corkman set an Irish 50km record of 3:37.54 when he finished 4th at the London Olympics. That performance was eventually, and justly, rewarded with a bronze medal when Russia's Sergey Kirdyapkin was stripped of his gold for an anti-doping violation.


Rob Heffernan celebrates winning gold 14/8/2013

The standing world record for the 50km walk (road) is 3:32.33 and is held by Yohan Diniz of France. He is sure to push Heffernan, the 2013 world champion, to his limit in Rio.

Thomas Barr

One of Ireland's most exciting athletes, he set his personal best of 48.65 in the 400m hurdles at the Golden Gala in Rome, 2015.

Set at the Olympics in Barcelona, American Kevin Young's world record of 46.78 has stood for 24 years.


Ciara Mageean

Ireland's most recent European medallist won bronze in the 1,500 metres earlier this month in Amsterdam in a time of 4:08.65 but her personal best over the classic distance is 4:06.49, set last year in Italy.

She is some distance off Genzebe Dibaba's world record of 3:50.07, set last year by the Ethiopian athlete.

Irish greats

Sonia O'Sullivan

Our sole world record holder. The Cork native holds the accolade for running the 2,000 metres at a time of 5:25.36 in 1994. That smashed the previous record by over three seconds.

Ronnie Delany

Claimed a gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics, in 1956, when he finished the 1,500 metres strongly to set a Games record of 3:41.20.

That time was gradually chipped away over the years. The current Olympic Record is 3:32.07, set by Kenya's Noah Ngeny in 2000.

Eamon Coughlan

In 1983, the Dubliner set a sensational World Indoor Mile record of 3:49.78 to claim gold.

The current world record is 3:48.45 and was set by Moroccan middle distance sensation Hicham El Guerrouj, in 1997.

Paul Hession

Maybe not a national treasure like O'Sullivan, Delany and Coughlan, but the Galway native is the fastest man Ireland has ever produced. Hession set the Irish 100 metres record of 10.18 in 2007.

That is more than half a second slower than Usain Bolt's 100m world record of 9.58, which was set in Berlin in 2009.

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