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Sprinter Hession has final ambition


By Cliona Foley (irishindependand.ie) IRELAND’S fastest man declared confidently yesterday that he is ready to make Olympic history by reaching the 200m final in Beijing.
“It’s not going to be easy because it’s a very, very tough event,” said Athenry speedster Paul Hession.

“If I was going into Athens (2004 Games) with my times as they stand, I would probably have been a shoo-in for the final, but the event has moved on and keeps moving. But it is a definite possibility,” added Hession with his trademark quiet confidence.

“I was 12th in the World Championships last year so I’m definitely there or thereabouts.”

The Galway sprint sensation, a two-time World Student Games medallist, has gone from strength to strength since joining Scottish coach Stuart Hogg two years ago and now even has the same agent as World 100m champion Asafa Powell.

In his only 200m so far this summer he opened with an excellent 20.48 seconds and was second behind Antigua’s Brendan Christian, looking particularly strong over the final 50 metres, an area he targeted in winter training.

“Brendan’s very much a ‘fringe’ finalist, he was 9th in Osaka (World Championships) and missed the final by just one place and he’s been racing for two months already, so to be within a metre of him already is a good sign, especially as I’m not as sharp as I was this time last year,” Hession admitted.

He has deliberated raced lightly so far in a bid to peak in Beijing, believing that his sensational 20.30 Irish record last summer came too soon before the World Championships.

He races in Poland next week followed by another 200m in Thessaloniki a week later, where he has always produced fast times.

He will also race in the Cork City Sports (July 12) and Irish National Championships (July 19/20) and finally in the Crystal Palace GP (July 26) before heading for Beijing.

Yet while Hession’s lofty Olympic ambitions look firmly on target, serious worries are emerging about the equally talented Kilkenny 400m star Joanne Cuddihy, another of the nine top Irish athletes supported by a special ESB Support scheme.

Cuddihy only ran in the relay at the European Championships last weekend because the flight to Portugal caused a knee cartilage problem, which has recently interrupted her training, to flare up again.

With the Olympics so close, she now faces a battle against time to recover full race fitness.

– Cliona Foley