Thomas Barr blown away by Dunmore homecoming
On a sun-kissed Thursday evening at the Dunmore slip, they came in their droves to honour one of their own, the first Irishman to win a European Championship sprint medal.
Flanked by a welcoming party of vessels, including the local RNLI Lifeboat, with flares deployed and klaxons sounding to salute his arrival back in the village, Thomas Barr made landfall to a tumultuous, joyous reception. Dunmore East had never seen anything like this.
“I really wasn’t expecting a turnout like this,” said the Ferrybank clubman, stood among hundreds of well-wishers at the Sailing Club, having posed for a tsunami of selfies on the slip.
“What can I say only a huge thank you to everyone who turned out: to Stuart from the RNLI who drove me down, to everyone who was out on boats, and the crowd that was waiting here as we came in from Passage – it was absolutely phenomenal – coming in and seeing the swarms of people on the slipway, it really, really blew me away to think that everybody was out here just to say hello and support me so thanks so much to everyone. And what a day to come in. This is where I grew up. I spent so many years in Dunmore in and around here, and it’s great to be back, getting a welcome like this having won a medal. It means a lot.”
The realisation of becoming only the tenth Irish athlete to win a European (Outdoor) track medal will take a little while to register yet, Thomas admitted. “Once my feet touch the ground again, it’ll start to sink in! It really hasn’t hit me yet even though it’s hanging around my neck!” Reflecting on his bronze medal-winning run from the outside lane in Berlin, the eight-time National Champion stated: “It’s not the ideal lane, but it forced me to run my own race, which is so important in the 400 Hurdles, but for everything to pan out the way it did and to come home with a medal is phenomenal. I could easily have been fourth again.”
Having gone one place better than he did at the Rio Olympics, the only race to eclipse his Berlin effort in terms of time, it’s clear how much medals eclipse personal bests in terms of primacy for Thomas. PBs may be logged into the personal scrapbook, but that chunk of metal he proudly wore around his neck on Thursday last is what the watching world will recall many years from now.
“It’s a completely different feeling,” he said when asked for a comparison with the Olympic experience. “Rio was an absolutely astonishing feat as well because I kind of came from nowhere. This year we knew where I was at, we knew I was in medal contention because of how I was running in training and to actually pull it off was phenomenal. To actually have a medal is what will be remembered, not the times, not even the places. It’s phenomenal. It really hasn’t sunk in.”
With the World Championships in Doha next year, followed by the Tokyo Olympics, retaining fitness and form ought to leave Thomas in the shake-up for Final qualification and a shot at further glory.
“Every year, we give it a hundred per cent. There’s no holding back because I literally train all year to get to the major championships. Doha is a perfect stepping stone onto Tokyo – Tokyo is the big, big goal in two years’ time.” As for the immediate future? “Next on the agenda is to kick back for three or four weeks and just celebrate and enjoy this whole experience.” Happily back on home shores, what a start Thomas Barr made on that front last Thursday!