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By David Monti, Race Results Weekly
(10-May) – Irishman Ciaran O’Lionaird, the former Florida State star who finished tenth at last summer’s world championships at 1500m, has decided to switch training groups in advance of this summer’s Olympic Games.
O’Lionaird, 24, has made the 130-mile drive from Portland to Eugene to train with the Oregon Track Club Elite under coach Mark Rowland. Previously, O’Lionaird had trained with another Nike-sponsored group, the Oregon Distance Project under coaches Alberto Salazar and Steve Magness.
“At a personal level I feel like I needed a change,” O’Lionaird said in a telephone interview from Eugene yesterday. ”I think moving down to Eugene will be a good change for me on both a personal and a training level.”
Calling Salazar “an unbelievable coach,” O’Lionaird said he “learned a ton and became a better athlete” during his stay in Portland, but said that Rowland’s expertise in the middle distances and the team environment of the OTC would benefit him. He said he and Rowland had a frank conversation, and both men agreed that the OTC would be a good fit.
“I got to sit down with him before I made a decision,” O’Lionaird recounted. ”We kind of immediately hit it off. He’s the kind of guy who is an extremely dedicated coach, and a really down to earth guy. He’s a guy I can easily relate to. I’m really excited to work with him (and) I think training with the team will be great.”
O’Lionaird and Rowland are now battling against the clock in their Olympic preparations. O’Lionaird has been managing an inflamed left Achilles tendon, so he is behind in his training schedule.
“It’s not an ideal time to take an athlete on, but his being Irish Olympian, he still has time to prepare if his Achilles heals,” Rowland said in a separate telephone interview. ”There is time for him to get back.”
The fast-talking O’Lionaird had a strong season last year. He ran a personal best 3:34.46 in Oordegem, Belgium, at the beginning of August –which gave him the Olympic “A” standard– setting him up well for the IAAF World Championships in Daegu. There, he showed solid racing skills, finishing sixth in both his prelim and semi-final before taking tenth in the final. He was the first Irishman to make a World Championships final since James Nolan also finished tenth in 2001 in Edmonton.
O’Lionaird also said that the chance to train at legendary Hayward Field on a regular basis was a draw for him, especially as part of a Nike-sponsored club.
“Putting a team logo on your chest is great,” O’Lionaird concluded. ”I’m really proud to be a Nike athlete and an OTC athlete.”
PHOTO: Ciaran O’Lionaird in an undated photo (photo courtesy of Total Sports US)
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission