PHIL Healy believes her indoor exploits will push her to the next level as she turns her attention to the outdoor season.
The Ballineen bullet (23) finished 11th overall in the women’s 400m at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham last weekend.
‘I never planned to focus on a big indoor season and put in a very hard winter base so I can now take this into the summer and push it on to another level,’ Healy told The Southern Star after her exploits at the world indoors that saw her make some history along the way.
Finishing third in her heat on Friday morning, in 52.75, Healy qualified for the semi-final as the fastest of six non-automatic qualifiers. By doing so, she became the first Irish woman to ever qualify for the semi-finals of the 400m at the indoor worlds; the latest of many milestones.
‘I’m delighted with that,’ Healy said.
‘Only two other Irish girls ever ran the world indoors and they are both the record holders indoor and outdoor in Karen Shinkins and Joanne Cuddihy.
‘I went to give it my all and left it all on the track.’
Healy had ran a 400m PB of 52.08 in Vienna in January so had form ahead of the championships, and she needed that after a tough draw in her heat, up against Stephanie Ann McPherson and Eilidh Doyle.
‘My aim going to the worlds was to progress through the rounds, taking it one round at a time,’ she said.
‘I got the toughest heat and knew I would have to be leading at the bell ahead of Doyle and McPherson. I ended up having to go through a lot quicker than I would normally do so that took a lot from my last 50 but it did secure me the top fastest qualifier position.
‘I couldn’t have ran the race any other way as they are world-class athletes and I needed to take the race to them. My time would have won some of the other heats but that’s the joy of indoor running, nothing is a certainty.’
That third place was enough to qualify Healy for the semi-final later that night where her fourth place finish, in 53.26, saw her miss out on the final.
Healy finished behind race winner Courtney Okolo (51.79), Maria Belimpasaki (52.17) and Tovea Jenkins (52.42) – but the West Cork woman was moved up to third after Belimpasaki was disqualified afterwards.
‘Getting lane one indoor is not ideal but I spoke to my coach Shane McCormack and we said the best-case scenario was to try take the girls in lanes two and three by 200 and position in behind the other three and try pick them off,’ Healy explained.
‘I probably ran a better-executed race than the heat but I was always going to be up against it from that lane.
‘I was happy with how I executed it and also how I backed up two races in the same day on the world stage. That’s something we specifically trained for and although it didn’t go the way we would have hoped, we can walk away knowing we planned and prepared and executed as best we could.
‘It’s money in the bank for future majors.’
Her world indoors’ debut brings the curtain down on a tremendous indoor season for the Bandon AC sprinter who feels more at home now on the big stage.
‘Without sounding arrogant it felt very normal to be competing against world-class athletes,’ she said.
‘Having run the fast time in Vienna and getting the world indoor race in Germany was great prep for this level. I have run majors every year since 2014 – at junior, U23 and senior level – so I have been well prepared for this level. This is the step-up and the level I need to be at to progress.’
It’s been a breakthrough few months for Healy who will now switch to the outdoor season with the European Athletics Championships in Berlin this August another big target.
‘The Athletics Ireland standards for the Europeans are not yet published but based on the European ones, I will more than likely already have the 200m and 400m standards for Berlin,’ she explained.
‘I will put in 12 weeks hard work now and take in a two-week camp in Spain over Easter with my training group and Shane.
‘As the summer goes on I will decide what race I will focus on for Euros.’