Athletics: O'Sullivan begins build-up to Athens with Dublin run

Sonia O'Sullivan begins her build-up for this year's Olympic Games by defending her Great Bupa Ireland Run title today.

The Olympic 5,000 metres silver medallist believes the 10km race on home soil in Dublin is the ideal event to begin her preparations for Athens. It will be her first competitive run since leading the Irish women's team to runners-up medals in last December's European Cross Country Championships.

The 34-year-old travelled back from her winter training base in Melbourne for that event, in which the Irish team was beaten by a Paula Radcliffe-led British side. O'Sullivan said: "We knew we were in with a shout and I really felt it was worthwhile coming back.

"I like representing my country and of course everything is now geared to Athens."

O'Sullivan will not be trying to set any records at Phoenix Park in a race in which England's Jenny Clague, rather than her compatriot Catherina McKiernan, may prove her toughest rival.

"Training in recent weeks has been going really well," O'Sullivan said. She has been putting in lots of endurance miles with Australia's Craig Mottram, who will be defending his men's title.

"After a long lay-off, it will be a case of putting my feet forward and seeing what happens. Of course it is a race I want to win for the simple reasons I'm defending my title and running on home soil."

Another victory would be just the encouragement that O'Sullivan needs before flying off to the United States with Mottram for altitude training.

Joining the training group of her partner Nic Bideau in Laguna Mountain, near San Diego, is a very important part of both O'Sullivan's and Mottram's Olympic preparations.

Already there is Benita Johnson, who beat the much more fancied African stars to the World Cross Country long course gold medal a fortnight ago, and the teenager Georgie Clarke.

Mottram insists he and his fellow Australians have much reason to be grateful for the advice they have received in recent years from the highly experienced O'Sullivan.

Mottram said: "We've got a great group, three women and myself who are international athletes. Sonia's been, and still is, a superstar who has motivated us and, I think, is going to go really well in Athens.

"We all seem to learn from each other. Benita's gone on one step ahead winning the World Championships, and it helps motivate us all.

"It makes us believe what we are doing is the right thing and there's no reason why we can't come over to these international competitions, World Championships and Olympics and do really well.

"That's part of what Nic is storing into us. He tells us we can do it and we believe him."

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