"When you're riding that wave, you do feel unstoppable" - Barr born for the Olympic stage 4 weeks ago

"When you're riding that wave, you do feel unstoppable" - Barr born for the Olympic stage

There's a glint in Thomas Barr's eye. There's an excitement in his voice.

You can't escape the buzz off him, the sort of buzz you'd get from a fella who's wandering around an airport departure zone,  mind racing and life before him.

It's not holidays this man is dreaming of.

While fast-times and personal bests do it for many modern athletes, when it comes to Thomas Barr, there's only ever been one show in town.

Yes, the run-of-the-millers are a part of the job and running fast is the name of the game but there's a time, a place and for this athlete, the moment doesn't come around every year.

The memories coming flooding back, better times and sunnier days when a sprightly Waterford 24-year-old was taking on the world in the Rio De Janeiro sun.

Back then, you wouldn't have known he'd carried an injury onto the sport's biggest stage when he was pulverising the national record books and sending shivers down Irish spines.

That he hit the cross-bar, with a breath-taking fourth place finish leaves him longing for a medal and the last five years have led him to the next three months of his life.

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It's Olympic year. It's competition season. This is Thomas Barr's town.

"A lot of people would tell you to ignore your phone, to ignore the hype, but I got a good buzz off it over in Rio and it was definitely something that pushed me on," the Red Bull athlete and Wings for Life World Run ambassador says, indicating his appetite for the pressure, his fit for the big stage.

"I was so excited before that final, I felt ready to take on the world, ready to go out there and do battle. When you're riding that wave, you do feel unstoppable. Unfortunately, I was 0.05 off a medal...but I loved that big stage and it definitely brought the best out of me..."

2020 went with the wind but through the lock-downs, restrictions and postponements, Thomas Barr had his head in the game. No sooner was the world on a road to nowhere when the 400m hurdler had a gym in his living room, a make-believe track at a local industrial estate.

"This time last year, I would have been in the shape of my life. I would have been in extremely good condition so I'm hoping that I've carried that forward. We have certain markers in training that would show where we're at so I'm hopeful that I'm in a good spot now, to bring that into the competition too..."

3 months out from a second shot at glory, training is going well and the 28-year-old is exactly where he wants to be, with a couple of competitions on the horizon in the next few weeks.

"The Olympics has come around very quickly. The way I'm looking at it is I've had another year to prepare for the Olympics, what will probably be my best Olympics, in terms of age, the right experience and so on.

"I've got some really good training done. This year, it's just been about knuckling down to the training, which isn't a bad thing really and I'm trying to take the positives from it that way."

Either way, it all comes back to the Olympics. In Rio, the Irish-man ran out of his skin and he'll be hoping to put that positive experience to good use this summer.

"It was probably a blessing in disguise that I had no expectation on myself in Rio. There was huge hype after the semi-final, having broken the national record, and I mean, I was on cloud nine then. There was massive hype but having the crowds and having the support from everyone back home on social media too, I just loved that, I buzzed off that do you know, that I was out there doing what I'd count as a job or a career, and people are getting so much excitement from it...

"The big thing for me in Rio, was to come home with experience which I could carry forward. Because I made it so far, I've been through the heats, semi-finals and final on the biggest stage in the sport. You can't put a value on that coming into the next Olympics. I mean, ahead of Rio, I was so excited - just like I am now - but the initial excitement is out of the system now and I think it's easier for me now to just focus on the task at hand."

Watch this space.

Red Bull athlete and Wings for Life World Run ambassador Thomas Barr is encouraging runners from beginner to elite to sign up for the 2021 app run event via the app or at WingsForLifeWorldRun.com with 100% of the €20 entry fee going straight to spinal cord research. This year’s event takes place on Sunday, 9th May with participants worldwide all starting at 12pm Irish time.