Gregan condemns OCI policy as ‘ridiculous’

Three tenths of a second outside the Olympic A standard, 400m sprinter Brian Gregan is adamant he should have been selected to compete in London.

It would be easy to forgive Brian Gregan if he was somewhat frustrated watching the London Olympic Games, in particular the heats of the men’s 400m.

A sense of injustice rested uneasily with Gregan as the athletes came out onto the track for his specialty event.

Not to mind the fact that the DCU graduate had beaten a significant chunk of the 51 competing sprinters, Gregan’s personal best of 45.61 would have been sufficient to advance to the semi-finals. His frustration was more than justified. Mind you, it still lingers.

The 22-year-old was three tenths of a second outside the Olympic A standard, but as a developing athlete and having run the B standard on numerous occasions, there were many advocating Brian Gregan be included in the Irish team for London.

The Olympic Council of Ireland, however, had other ideas and remained steadfast in their A standard only policy. Brian Gregan disagreed. He still disagrees.

Speaking to The College View, the Sports Science and Health graduate said that not sending development athletes to the Games was ‘a mistake’.

“The experience myself and other developmental athletes would have gained in the run up to Rio 2016 would have been second to none. I feel it was an oversight by the OCI and I think the same mistake cannot be made again. Explaining to other athletes from abroad that I would not be competing in the games was tough, as several of them were being sent on B standards.”

In a recent interview with The College View, DCU Athletics Academy Director Enda Fitzpatrick slammed the OCI’s policy as ‘totally flawed’, a sentiment shared by Gregan.

“Not sending developmental athletes who had achieved multiple B standards during the year of 2012 is ridiculous. I and several others like Steven Colvert, were in red-hot form during 2012 and I 100% feel that in a packed out stadium in London, the necessary A standard would have been achieved.”

Putting the disappointment of not garnering Olympic selection aside, Gregan acknowledges that his 2012 season was most certainly a progressive one. Despite missing a significant chunk of training due to a virus, the former European U23 silver medalist managed to considerably lower his 400m personal best.

“I feel it was a real breakthrough year for me. I knocked .35 off my 400m time this year, the biggest chunk since 2008/09. I had a really good indoor season starting in New York with the DCU Millrose team. After coming back from America, I picked up a virus and I missed 2-3 months of training, but eventually I got things back on track.

“Since I had missed so much training, I was quite unsure how the season would unfold. I came out and ran a personal best in my first race leaving me shocked but obviously delighted. This gave me a newfound confidence leading to me smashing my PB twice more during the season.”

Competing in every available race in a bid to secure the Olympic A standard, Gregan travelled to Helsinki for the European Championships in late June. Prior to the meet, the majority of media attention centered on the likes of Fionnuala Britton and Paul Hession, but it was Gregan who grabbed the headlines when advancing with ease to the 400m final.

Within the space of three days, the Clonliffe harriers athlete had gone from relatively unknown to being Ireland’s one genuine hope of a podium finish. Alas, it was not to be.

Finishing 6th, Gregan admits it was a missed opportunity.

“Watching that race makes me feel ill. A medal was there for the taking and I wanted it so badly. However things conspired against me the day of the final. When the gun went the Italian runner in the lane outside me ran a few meters before stopping. I thought it was a false start and hesitated, when I realised it was not I tried to get back into my running but I felt a sharp pain in my groin. I thought to myself should I stop but I said it’s the European final keep running.

“Come the final few meters, I had nothing left. I lost all power in my groin and could not keep my bronze medal position with less than 10 meters to go. It was really difficult to take knowing I had a European medal with meters to go but it’s a 400m race not a 390m race.”

Gregan replays that cold night in Finland over and over again, living by the philosophy that you gain more from your mistakes than you do from your successes.

There is no doubt that this ever-improving athlete will feature in Rio, but will he do so as only Ireland’s second ever sub 45-second runner? Brian Gregan has the belief, and that should be good enough for the rest of us.

Eoghan Cormican

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