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Sonia O’Sullivan swaps the boards for the turf

March 20 1997

MONACO - Monte Carlo - Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan is down to compete in the World Cross Country Championships just two weeks after winning silver in the World Indoor Championships 3000m final in Paris. O’Sullivan’s narrow defeat to Romania’s Gabriela Szabo - by 8:45.75 to 8.46.19 - showed that the 1995 outdoor World Champion at 5000m had overcome the heartbreak of Atlanta where illness wrecked her hopes. But the 27 year-old is now looking to go one step further in the World Cross. "I screwed up in the World Indoors so I’m definitely looking to win in Turin. The course should be good for me. It is basically a road track that they’ve put some earth on. Unless it rains and turns into a mud bath, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been working in the fields for a couple of weeks to prepare myself. 1996 is in the past. It’s all about 1997 now and I’ve still got a lot of hunger inside me," said O’Sullivan.

Sonia O'Sullivan - Fernanda RibeiroYet there is a world of difference between running around Mondo-surfaced 200m circuits indoors and negotiating the muddy expanses of an outdoor park. Not surprisingly, it has usually been a case of "either, or" for most distance runners. The last athlete to do an indoor/cross double was Ian Stewart, now an executive with the British Athletics Federation, who won the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and a European Indoor title at 3000m in 1975. But should O’Sullivan, whose best performance at the World Cross was a seventh place back in 1992, falter the Irish have a dependable back-up in Catherina McKiernan.

McKiernan, born two days after O’Sullivan, is a terrific cross country specialist. She finished second in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships five times between 1991 and 1995 but won the IAAF Cross Challenge on each occasion. In Cape Town last year McKiernan succumbed to a virus and finished 13th in the Senior Women’s race. McKiernan has raced sparingly this season, but finished second to Elena Fidatov in the IAAF Cross Challenge in Tourcoing on February 2.

With a bit of the luck of the Irish, O’Sullivan and McKiernan could upset the form book in Turin.



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Copyright 1997 IAAF International Amateur Athletic Federation. All rights reserved.
All photographs 1997 Allsport.