Making her Oympic Games debut in Tokyo 2020 on Saturday morning last (August 7), Sinéad Diver stormed to the line to become just the second woman representing Australia to finish in the top 10 in an Olympic marathon.
The only better Olympic performances by an Australian woman marathoner came from Lisa Ondieki, who won the silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and was seventh in 1988.
Sinéad finished strongly on a hot and humid morning in Sapporo to claim 10th spot in 2:31.14.
Her long awaited Olympic debut came with a wealth of major marathon experience under her belt, including a top five finish at the 2019 New York Marathon and multiple other top 10 placings.
In all of these races she demonstrated that she is not interested in getting caught up in tactical affairs as shown on her way to a 2:24:11 personal best and seventh place finish in London 2019.
On Saturday she ran her own race once again, brilliantly adhering to the advice of coach Nic Bideau to get comfortably to the 30k mark – often cited as halfway in the marathon.
From there to the finish she ran strongly moving up the field in the later stages from 20th to 16th and on to 11th in the final kilometre. She was then able to sprint past Jelalia Johannes (Namibia) to a top ten place.
Her average 5k time for a 2:31.14 finish was 17:47 – amazing pace! How sweet that sounds. It would be a decent standalone 5k target for many top women club runners hereabouts, not to mention for a lot of men!
In an Irish Olympic marathon context, Regina Joyce finished 23rd in LA in 1984 and Fionnuala McCormack was 20th in Rio 2016 and 25th in Tokyo 2020. Catherina McKiernan, who leads the Irish all-time marathon lists did not compete in an Olympic marathon – she ran the 10,000 metres in Atlanta 1996.
Aoife Cooke from Eagle AC was Ireland’s other Tokyo 2020 marathon representative, and was among 15 of the 88 starters who dropped out . (See official results of women’s marathon below)
Describing the conditions as brutal, (temperatures reached 30 degrees Celsius and 69 per cent humidity), Cooke hailed Fionnuala McCormack’s performance as ‘incredible’ – so begging the question – what relative superlative would apply to Sinéad’s 10th place achievement!
On reflection, our Mayo AC member’s performance for her adopted nation Australia, was not a surprise given her finish places, times and tactical experience in all of her recent marathons.
However it is quite rightly a cause for celebration in Mayo AC and all across the West, if not in the halls of Santry.
Anyone who saw her Seven Network post race interview clip will appreciate the quality of her athletics achievement – understandably emotional, articulate, grateful for all the support – fully deserved.
She told the network ”
I’m speechless, I’m so happy,” said Diver.
“I didn’t expect to come top 10.
“That was something I really wanted before the race, so I’m absolutely stoked that I fought for that spot at the end.
“I had to sprint to get past the girl in front of me.”
My coach (Nic Bideau) said to me before the race ‘the first 90 minutes you’ve just got to feel relatively comfortable, the race doesn’t start until after that'”
“I kept reminding myself of that and I kept pulling back a bit.
“I gave it everything from about 32km.
“It’s still a long way to go and it’s really hot out there.
“I’m just so relieved that I was able to stay strong until the end.”
Congratulations to Sinéad Diver, Olympian!