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'He's A Freak Of Nature' - Thomas Barr's Sister On A Historic Night For The Irish Athlete

'He's A Freak Of Nature' - Thomas Barr's Sister On A Historic Night For The Irish Athlete
By PJ Browne Updated

The early hours on Wednesday morning were further tonic for Irish sports fans following the queasiness created by the deplorable decision suffered by Michael Conlan in the Rio ring.

Two hours after the Conlan fight, Annalise Murphy provided relief by winning silver in the Laser Radial sailing.

At 2am, Thomas Barr surprised us all - maybe even himself - with a stunning performance to win his semi-final of the 400m hurdles.

Watching at home in Limerick was his sister Jessie. She was since pretty much been her brother's full time press officer - 'I've never taken so many phone calls in my life'.

It was a feeling of disbelief really. There were about seven of us in the house - people from the training group. The boys were just jumping up and down and around the place.

I was just sitting there stunned with my heart nearly beating out of my chest.

I've seen him win races before, like on the circuit. Then I kind of realised that this isn't a normal race. It's an Olympic semi-final.

That feeling of disbelief was due to uncertainty regarding Thomas' conditioning. In the months prior to the Olympics, he has suffered groin and hip injuries. After the European Championships in Amsterdam, where Barr finished fifth in his semi-final, failing to make the decider, he got in a good six weeks of training.

In the heat, Barr broke the 49 second barrier for the first time this season. Last night he bettered that again to break his own Irish record by 0:26. He also becomes the first Irish athlete to reach an Olympic sprint final since Bob Tisdall in 1932.

It doesn't take much for Thomas to uncover that confidence. Once the injuries cleared up, the hard work had already been done.

He's a freak of nature. He's just so relaxed when he runs. I've never seen anyone like him.

The 24-year-old appears to be in a great place right now. A culmination of timing and location has him in incredibly optimistic form.

I got a call from him around 4am. He just loves it out there. He loves the venue, he loves the track, he loves the weather.

That interview on RTÉ last night with David Gillick, he looked like someone who was on a high.

Thomas and Jessie's parents are in Rio at the moment. They enjoyed 'a few gin and tonics' after last night's semi-final - 'it could be more after the final'.

Jessie will not be watching the final from her Limerick sitting room. Instead she will be in the RTÉ studio.

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They've asked me to come on the panel with Derval and Jerry and them. I hope I'll be able to hold it together on TV tomorrow. I don't know what way I'm going to be afterwards.

Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

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