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Athletics: O'Sullivan in Bangor for 3000m.

Byline: JOHN DOYLE

SONIA O'Sullivan is set to make a surprise appearance at the North Down International Games at Bangor, Co Down, on Friday night.

The Irish star will run in a special 3,000 metres which was not part of the original programme but which was included when O'Sullivan expressed a wish to compete.

O'Sullivan had made it known that she would like a "low key race" following her disappointing run in the 1,500 metres in Madrid last Saturday night week when she trailed home 15th of the 16 finishers in a time of 4:19.66.

As it happened the well known British promoter, Andy Norman, was organising the athletes for the Bangor promotion and he received word that O'Sullivan might be interested in running.

So plans were drawn up for a 3,000 race to be added to the programme at the Bangor Sportsplex and all that remained to be done yesterday was to have the necessary opposition put in place to face O'Sullivan.

"We hope to get most of the runners from places like Dublin and Cork along with the best we can muster from Belfast" said Northern Ireland Athletics Federation Spokesman, Brian Hill, yesterday.

It was O'Sullivan's wish to have a low key race in the hope of restoring her confidence in the lead up to the World Championship in Paris next month after her Madrid experience.

Over the week-end O'Sullivan said of that race: "The first thing I had to do was to explain the reasons to myself and while it took me 24 to 48 hours to do that I feel I don't have to explain it to anyone else.

"I've now put it behind me and looking to the future and what I want at this stage is a low key race to get my confidence back."

The opportunity for such a race came about on Sunday when her partner, Nick Bideau, met Norman and the plan was hatched.

As it happens O'Sullivan was in Ireland yesterday receiving a check from her trainer and physiotherapist, Gerard Hartman, in Limerick where she will remain before flying to Belfast on Friday morning.

This will be only the second time that O'Sullivan will have competed in Northern Irish soil having run rather poorly in an 800m race back in 1990 when she was only starting out on her career.

The meeting will also feature a number of other Irish athletes who hope to make it to Paris, including sprinters, Paul Brizzel and Paul McKee, who will clash over 200m, while top British javelin thrower, Steve Backley will also be in action.

Irish athletics received a boost yesterday with the news that Woodie's DIY would sponsor the National Track and Field Championships at Santry Stadium on August 9-10.

O'Sullivan has confirmed that she will be a participant - probably in the 1,500 metres - along with the cream of the country's best like McKee, Brizzel and Gillian O'Sullivan, who set a new world record for the 5K Walk in last year's championships.

Terry McHugh will also be attempting to win his 20th javelin title.

CAPTION(S):

NORTHERN IRELAND RETURN: Sonia O'Sullivan; JAVELIN: Backley; SPRINTER: Brizzel
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 30, 2003
Words:529
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