DUNLEER AC’s Geraldine Finegan put in an amazing display at the World Masters Athletic Championships in Sacramento, California recently.
Representing Ireland and competing with 5500 athletes from 93 different countries in harsh conditions - the weather was over 90 degrees and hit 100 during the last days of competion – Finegan put in a fine display, breaking nine Irish national records and picking up four silver medals in the process.
Geraldine’s first event was the 80m hurdles where she came in second with a time of 12.7 behind the French European Long jump record holder.
The rest of the day saw athletes with 30 minutes to recover between events. Geraldine finished 2nd in the high jump behind the 1.60 French athlete again but she then managed a mighty throw in the shot putt to win this event, leaving the French athlete in third spot behind the up and coming American talent Susan Weimer.
On the final event of the first day, Geraldine broke the national record in the 200m to hold Ireland’s second place behind France.
The second day of events, held in 95 degrees of sunshine, saw Geraldine much better prepared and she equalled the indoor long jump record, creating a new outdoor record only 13cm behind the European record holder. This gave great confidence and hope to Geraldine who won the next event, the javelin, breaking another national record.
The final event, Geraldine’s favourite, was the 800m. Due to the hard work and numerous cross-country races ran in Ireland with her club and team mates during the year, Geraldine won by over nine seconds to finish with three wins to the French athletes four. When the points were added, Geraldine found out that she had broke her own record and the national outdoor masters record by almost 2000 points. This record was previously held by Belfast athlete Monica Tanny.
The next event was the 400m. However with the effects of the seven event heptathlon still in her legs, Finegan, despite recording her best time in three years and setting new Irish reccord, tfinished just behind current world champion Virginia Mitchell.
Still dissappointed from another near miss, Geraldine competed in the javelin and triple jump individual events where she came in 4th. Geraldine broke the Irish record with 10.42 and is aiming to work on this event in the winter months ahead.
The 800m quater-finals and semi finals were run at 9pm to help the athletes stay cool. Geraldine easily qualified, recording faster times than her 800m heptathlon final run. Only 12 athletes from the large entry were allowed to move to the final held the following day at 8.30pm.
A cooler evening followed and with it came another national record as the fast recovering Finegan - although out of the medal positions - was happy to smash another barrier.
In her 400m heat, Geraldine won her heat easily and broke a very old Irish record by .1 held by Maeve Kyle in 1972. Having decided to drop out of the 400m final due to a clash in events on the same day, Geraldine ran the 80m hurdles that afternoon in the mid day heat where she picked up another silver behind current world champion Monica Perrillini from Switzerland.
The last day was very hot and temperatures were still rising in Sacramento.
Luckily the 2000m steeplechase race was sheduled for 9.05am. Finegan ranked 4th behind Poland, Great Britain and USA but with injuries taking their toll, the British athlete did not show, putting the Irish into third ranking.
Having ran well all week Finegan was aiming for another silver. She begain the five lap race cautiously behind the American record holder Lisa Valle.
Geraldine takes up the story:
“With a world record speed being set it was hard to maintain the pace and hold back put I remained in second place until the final 200m. Behind me, I could hear the heavy breathing of the Polish girl breathing down my neck and as I was mid air hurdling the steeplechase I felt excuciating pain above my achilles.
“In the lower leg my spick was half pulled from my heel and I was pushed to the ground by the Polish athlete who lost balance mid flight. Clearing the jump, I fell to the ground, cutting my left knee and grazing my rght palm. I watched the Polish athlete take a lead of 10 to 12 metres but I looked behind and realised I could still take the bronze medal.
“With blood dripping from my leg, knee and hand I got up and got back in the race. I finished the last water jump and had 150m to run when I realsied my friend, Jennie Stone, shouting at me to get back in the race and fight for the silver medal.
“I splashed my way out of the deep water, and with one final steeple to clear, and the Polish girl dying in front, I somehow found the strength to sprint past her and finished seven seconds ahead of her at the line to take my last silver medal of the games and set a new national record.”
Covered in blood, loose tartan, water and sweat, Geraldine said she was delighted to celebrate her first championship without the use of inhalers for asmthas and allergies.
“I would like to thank those specialists who have helped acheive this small miracle, including Seamus McQuaid from The Salt Clinic in Omeath and Mazu Gold, a wonderful natural supplement that balances and helps with recovery. Also a big thanks to Kookie O’Hagan from Newry Top Athletic Club and two sports therapists, Artie Quinn and Richard Mongela.”