The Millrose Games is an event that holds legendary status among runners and followers of athletics. And Irish athletes have had a particularly special relationship with the event over the years. Eamonn Coghlan earned his nickname as 'Chairman of the Boards' after dominating the Wanamaker Mile, which is held as part of the Games. Coghlan won the Mile seven times, a record only surpassed by Bernard Lagat seven years ago. Ronnie Delaney and Marcus O'Sullivan also won the race several times each as well as Niall Bruton and Mark Carroll.
And now the Games has witnessed a hugely promising Irish talent on the international stage. Bernard Ibirogba is a young 8-year-old athlete from Scoil Naomh Padraig in Kildare and he absolutely tore it up against some of the fastest kids from America's east coast - winning the 55 metre sprint title at his age group (per Johnny Healy, via Ian O'Riordan):
— Johnny Healy (@Johnny_Healy) February 11, 2017
There's Ibirogba in the top photo below (he's the one winning).
— New York Road Runners (@nyrr) February 11, 2017
As O'Riordan explains in this excellent piece on Ibirogba and the Games, the young sprinter has a quite amazing story. His mother and father are refugees from Nigeria and - thanks, O'Riordan suggests, to Irish athletics legend Ray Flynn (who directs the Games) - they travelled over to support Bernard in the race. He was discovered, along with Emily Kelly from Finn Valley AC in Donegal, by the brilliantly-named Dermot McDermott, as part of a project called Ireland's Fastest Kid which involved McDermott travelling the country and testing kids to try and find the Fastest Kid On The Block.
Bernard's preparation for the race was undertaken with the tutelage of Sean Connolly, a teacher in Scoil Naomh Padraig as well as the 2011 Irish marathon champion and a man who nearly qualified for the London Olympics in 2012. Speaking to the Kildare Nationalist, Connolly revealed that the trials in Ireland were the first time that Bernard - who actually is not even a member of an athletics club - had run on an all-weather track (though he has since trained on a track, with the help of the Irish Defence Forces):
We knew he had a chance but it was down to how he would perform on the day and in the end, he did great. Particularly as he was up against club runners, Bernard doesn’t run for a club, he is just a member of the school running team. He does it twice a week in the school. That was his first time actually running on a tartan track.
Connolly said the school's cross-country team had "helped push" Bernard, with the school's commitment to the sport - using the nearby resource of The Curragh - really paying off in his success. Speaking to the Nationalist, Scoil Naomh Padraig principal Jonathan Healy said that the school had also chipped in financially to support their star athlete:
We had a civvies day for Bernard and raised some money and we donated some money ourselves. Our school lunch sponsors Bradburys have also made a generous donation to Bernard’s family for the upcoming trip.
An amazing effort by all involved. It's no wonder they're proud of him at Scoil Naomh Padraig.
The Irish Bolt? Maybe, but no doubt Leinster Rugby will have their eyes on him...