16 August 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

2015 has been a bit of rollercoaster for Denise Toner. Pre and Post becoming European Indoor Masters Champion over 800m in March she has suffered from a severe Calf injury which had greatly interfered with her training which in turn has disrupted her racing schedule in the build up to the World Masters Track & Field Championships in Lyon.

From the problem flaring up again in mid April it was just about managing the situation by getting it treated and using the Alter Gravity machine at DBSM in Castleshane allowed her to train until she was given the all clear to return to the track. From there it was about gradually increasing the load, before been able to do sharper speed sessions over shorter distances. It then was about getting race sharp and travelled to Dublin in the last 3 weeks to do so. Having done all she was fit to do she arrived  Lyon in fairly good shape and spirits.

The temperatures on Friday last for Round 1 of her event the 800m reached 39 degrees, this coupled along with tough qualifying standards of only the first one in each race plus the nine fastest losers across the three heats would make life difficult to make Sunday’s final.

Denise was drawn in the first of the three heats along with fellow Irish athlete and quickest of the 27 competitors Kelly Neely and medal contender Nina Howorka. At 12.20 the 9 athletes for Heat 1 were led out onto the track at the Pierre Deboeuf Stadium.

From the gun City of Lisburn’s Neely clearly set out her stall hitting the front with Denise closely following. As they went through 400m the two Irish athletes were well clear. Neely injected some pace in the back straight and moved 6-7m clear of the Clones athlete who looked comfortable. Neely went on to take the win in a fast 2:11.20, with Denise easing off over the final 60m feeling she had enough done and crossed the line in 2:15.09.

By the virtue of finishing seconds she would have to wait to see if she qualified as a fastest loser but it turned out that her time was the quickest overall, quicker than the other two heat winners. After a brief cool down and watching a few other races it was back to the apartment to start to prepare for Sundays final.

The final which took place at the main Championship Arena was the penultimate race of a packed evening of 800m Finals where over 3,500 people turned out to witness some cracking races on a cooler evening in the early thirties. At just after 6.40 local French time the twelve athletes that lined up for the final of the W35 category were introduced to the crowd with Denise drawn on the very outside lane. Following all the formalities the starter called the athletes to their marks and a hush descended on the stadium. The gun went and the twelve athletes set off in chase of glory. Again just like in the heat the Irish duo of Neely and Toner set off cracking out a great pace with Kelly leading at the bell in 62 seconds some 2-3 metres ahead of Denise with the chase pack 10m back. Neely started to extend her lead as the race moved towards 600m with Denise still comfortably in 2nd. As the athletes entered the home straight the crowd rose to their feet to cheer the athletes home with Neely taking the win in 2:10.07, Denise elated with her Silver in 2:14.59 and the Slovak athlete Howorka just getting up to pip the French athlete Carine Marie by 15 hundreds of a second to take Bronze.

After her medal ceremony on Monday Denise said it’s was all a bit surreal and hard to take in at the moment. She said that her preparations were far from ideal but with a lot of work from a great team of people she is proud to bring home a Silver Medal from the World Championships.

Denise stated she would like to take this opportunity to thank a number of people without who’s help and assistance would not have been in this position –her family and especially her husband Philip for his and their continued support, to Paul O Neill her coach, to Declan Brennan and his team at DBSM, Alexia Treanor Centre of Health, Monaghan, Marty Mc Gourty, Mark Elliot. to all in Clones Athletic Club, The Peace Link in Clones and St Pat’s GAA Club, Donagh.

When asked what was next in her plans she stated that she really hadn’t looked …


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