SHE can’t promise to reproduce the drama of her most famous relay race, but Phil Healy is promising to leave it all on the track when the Ireland mixed 4x400m relay team races for Olympic qualification this weekend.
In 2016 the Ballineen sprinter made international headlines after her heroics at the Irish Universities T&F Championships in Santry.
Running the last leg of the women’s 4x400m relay for UCC, Healy battled back from fifth place – and 70 metres behind the leader – when she took control of the baton to, incredibly, win the race on the line. As commentator Cathal Dennehy said famously that day, she came from ‘the depths of hell’ to snatch a triumph that went viral.
Five years on Ireland’s fastest woman will line up for the Irish mixed 4x400m relay team that knows a top-eight finish at this weekend’s World Athletics Relays in Silesia, Poland will book them a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
‘That was madness back then with that relay race and I don’t expect anything like that to happen this weekend!’ Healy says.
‘This is a great opportunity for this team. We have to finish in the top eight to qualify for the Olympics but if we finish in the top 12 we can qualify for the World Championships in Oregon next year.’
Healy’s 4x400m team-mates include Sophie Becker (Raheny Shamrocks AC), Sharlene Mawdsley (Newport AC), Chris O'Donnell (North Sligo AC), Thomas Barr (Ferrybank AC) and Andrew Mellon (Crusaders AC) – and the West Cork woman expects sparks to fly this weekend.
‘This will be the first time we will race together so there are a lot of unknowns. Potentially, we have a really good team,’ she says.
‘There is a lot at stake but it’s very exciting and I think we have great potential. The dynamic is great too, with two men and two women.’
Healy explains that usually in a mixed relay the women sprinters run the second and third legs with the men taking the first and fourth. She’s been on a training camp in Spain these past few weeks as she prepares for, potentially, a very busy summer. She’s in a good position to qualify for the Olympics in the women’s 200m and she’s also targeting the women’s 400m, as well as the 4x400m mixed relay.
‘I’m coming from individual sprinting where I’m focussed on just myself in a race whereas the team environment is totally different because you are not just depending on yourself,’ she says.
‘To be honest, I find a relay easier to run rather than a straight 400. I have never ran a mixed 4x400 so it’s going to be a different dynamic alright, but I’m looking forward to it.’
Healy added: ‘In the 4x400 you need four strong runners while in the 4x100 it comes down to the changeovers that make or break it. You need the changeovers in the 4x400 to be on point too, but four strong runners is key, otherwise you are on the back foot.’
Even if the Irish team finds itself on the back foot this weekend, Healy has form for producing the extraordinary in 4x400m relays; she’s their secret weapon.