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home run Waterford the best Barr none as Olympic hurdler Thomas flies the flag for his native Deise

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Olympian, Thomas Barr at the launch of the Irish Life Health 'Runuary' programme in Dunmore East

Olympian, Thomas Barr at the launch of the Irish Life Health 'Runuary' programme in Dunmore East

Olympian, Thomas Barr at the launch of the Irish Life Health 'Runuary' programme in Dunmore East

Olympic hurdler Thomas Barr has lived in Limerick for a decade, but his heart definitely belongs to his native county.

“I’m Waterford to the core,” declared Barr, who will be supporting the Deise in Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final against the Treaty county.

But despite coming from a sporting background, the 400m specialist acknowledges he never mastered the basics of hurling.

“When we were younger our parents encouraged myself, Jessie and Becky (his siblings) to play every sport. I gave everything a go in school, but hurling was just something I couldn’t manage.

“I held the hurley the wrong way. I held it like a golf club and apparently that was the wrong hand on top or bottom, so it wasn’t one for me.

"And I haven’t been a follower of the game either. But at the moment, because I am living in Limerick, there is no hiding from it.

“A couple of the Limerick players were living down the road from me here during the summer. My neighbour has all the Limerick flags up, so I’m trying to keep a low profile."

The postponement of the Tokyo Games for 12 months meant it was a surreal summer for Barr, who finished fourth in the 400m hurdles at the Rio Games and later won a bronze medal at the European championships in Berlin in 2018.

But in retrospect, he enjoyed having a ‘free’ summer for the first time in a decade.

“This might sound controversial because running is my profession and, obviously, I was frustrated because it was an Olympic year and I was in really great shape, but it was somewhat nice to have a few weeks off during the summer and not be worried about athletics.”

The unexpected break allowed Barr to focus on life away from the track. Having just purchased a house in Limerick, he had time to spend doing renovation work on the property and built a shed in the back garden.

“The renovations have slowed down now because training is taking precedence, but I’m tipping away at it,” said Barr, who also has a passion for tinkering with fast cars.

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In his spare time, he competes at ‘drift’ racing at Mondello Park - but it too became a victim of the pandemic.

“But in the next couple of weeks I might get up for a one-day adrenalin rush,” he said.

He remains optimistic that the Tokyo Games will go ahead next summer but is pragmatic about the possibility that they could still be cancelled.

“There is nothing I can do about that. I just have to roll with the punches. I will be in the same boat as every other athlete, so I am not letting it get the better of me.”

During the second lockdown Barr was able to train as normal, though the size of the training group had to be reduced.

But he is undecided whether he will travel abroad to the Canary Islands and Tenerife for a warm winter camp in January.

While the track is open, Barr is waiting to see whether travel restrictions will be eased in the New Year, particularly in relationship to having to self-isolate after returning from abroad.

*Barr was speaking at the launch of the Irish Life Health 'Runuary' programme which has been developed in partnership with Athletics Ireland. Runners can sign-up free of charge to the training programme at irishlifehealth.ie.

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