There was nothing but frustration for Portlaoise athlete Michael Mulhare in Slovenia at the weekend, as his hopes of European glory were wrecked after he lost a running shoe two kilometres into the race.
Mulhare had shot to national attention last year when he was part of the Irish team which claimed team gold at last year’s Euorpean Cross Country Championships in Portugal.
As the only surviving member from that squad, Mulhare had high hopes coming into this year’s championship, but saw those hopes cruelly dashed by a freak accident.
Having joined the leading group early on he was comfortably sticking with the leaders, but when a fellow athlete trod on his right foot after 2km, he lost his right shoe, and with it went his aspirations of an individual medal to go with his team gold from last year. He eventually finished in 31st position, still the first Irish man home by some distance.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mulhare there was still a tinge of regret in his voice as he knew he could have been in the mix had things gone better for him. “I got badly spiked and lost my shoe after two kilometres, and that messed me up big time” confessed Mulhare. “I had no acceleration and I know I could have finished a lot higher. The fella who finished twelfth, I beat him by 40 seconds a few weeks ago.”
The split times from the race showed Mulhare was keeping pace with the leaders for the opening 2km, with just one second separating him from the leader at the 2km mark. He slowly fell down the field after that, and he admits that, mentally, he found the race very difficult. “I was comfortable in the lead group, even when I lost my shoe, it wasn’t a matter of fitness. But then I had no spike to push off the ground and accelerate, and mentally I knew my chance was gone.”
Before heading to the Slovenian city of Velenje, which hosted this year’s race, Mulhare had targeted at least a top eight finish, while not ruling out an individual medal either. In spite of losing a shoe and suffering injury in the race, his 31st place finish was just 40 seconds behind eventual winner Florian Carvalho, while silver medallist, James Wilkinson from the UK, is someone Mulhare admits he has competed closely with in the past.
His mind has been quickly drawn away from events in Slovenia, however, as he has returned to his studies in UL, where he is currently sitting final year exams. As of yet, however, he is unsure of his post-college plans. “I’m not too sure about next year, I might go on and do a Masters, or I might take a year out and give athletics a really good go. I would hope to get a good summer behind me and maybe head over to the States and do some running over there.
“You could have 20 or 30 guys running fast over there and the competition is very good, it’s hard to get that here.”
His immediate plans, however, are closer to home. He will run in the Edinburgh International on January 7, before jetting home to take part in Laois Senior Cross Country Championships on January 8.
Michael wasn’t the only member of the Mulhare clan in action in Slovenia either, as younger sister Mary was also taking part at the Euros. She was the fourth Irish girl home in the Junior race, helping the Irish team to a a twelfth place finish. Mary finished 71st overall in her second appearance at the European Championships
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