Team Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack put in an excellent performance in her fourth Olympic Games, to finish in 25th place with a season’s best time of 2:34:09. There was disappointment for Aoife Cooke who’s Cooke’s Olympic debut came to an end just after the 20km mark as she had to withdraw from the race.
Mayo-born Sinead Diver, who has been competing for Australia since 2015, finished 10th.
Due to extreme heat in Sapporo, the race time was pushed earlier to give the athletes a reprieve from the temperature’s set for 25°C, with over 80% humidity. These gruelling conditions saw 15 athletes retire early.
For McCormack, she stuck with the lead pack from the start of the race. After the 10km mark, the athletes began to separate and McCormack reached the halfway point of the race in 27th place. Just shy of halfway, Cooke had passed through the 20km mark in 1:16:57 before she was forced to step off the course.
The second half of the race saw the leaders begin to wind it up, and McCormack held a mid-twenties position throughout, moving up two spots with a strong final 2km to claim a top 25 placing. Her finishing time was 2:34:096:49 down on the winner.
Speaking after the race, McCormack said, “It wasn’t the result I had hoped for…it was a battle out there today, both physical and mental.”
“Running has broken my heart so many times, so I should probably be used to it, but I still love it so I’ll be back again.”
Fionnuala McCormack made her return to marathon racing, at the Boston Marathon in 2019, having last competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics. McCormack raced just six months after giving birth to her daughter, Isla.
The Kilcoole Athletic Club runner ran almost a minute quicker than her previous PB time of 2:31:22 in Rio 2016 and was the highest placed European, crossing the line in 11th place.
A few months later at the Chicago Marathon, the three-time Olympian booked her place at the Tokyo Olympic Games, as she smashed her personal best to finish fifth. McCormack finished in a time of 2:26:47, cutting an astonishing four minutes off her previous PB of 2:30.38, which she set earlier in Boston.
There was other Irish interest further up the field as Mayo-born Sinead Diver, representing Australia finished 10th. The 44-year-old crossed the line after two hours, 31 minutes and 14 seconds — just under four minutes behind race winner, Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir.
Diver, who was born and raised in Mayo, moved to Melbourne at age 25 in 2002. Her performance was Australia’s best finish in the women’s marathon since the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
The Irish-Australian has only been running for 11 years, taking the sport up aged 33 to get fit after her first pregnancy.
Interview with Mayo's Sinead Diver. The runners slogged through the streets of Sapporo in temperatures that reached 33 degrees Celsius and 80 per cent humidity. Despite the stifling conditions Diver finished strongly in 2.31.14 to gain 10th place 🇦🇺🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/5ez3a2FNAj
— Letterkenny AC (@LetterkennyAc) August 7, 2021
“I’m speechless, I’m so happy. I didn’t expect to come top 10,” Diver said.
“That was something I really wanted before the race, so I’m absolutely stoked that I fought for that spot at the end.
“I had to sprint to get past the girl in front of me, so I’m so happy I managed to do that.”