Ireland's Alistair Cragg has hit out at the older generation of Irish distance athletes, claiming that some of the former middle and long distance runners put down the current crop of Irish athletes to maintain their own legend with the Irish public.
In a very emotional interview, conducted immediately after Cragg’s 5000m heat in Beijing, where the Irish athlete thought he was out of the Games, Cragg spoke candidly about former greats and about the demons he carries around with him at all major championships.
Cragg said: ‘Prominent names in this sport are sitting in Ireland and are talking about how we are not great like they used to be. But they forget that in the seventies they never had thirteen Kenyans under thirteen minutes.
‘There is so much negativity from the top down about how people look at our sport in Ireland. It’s sad because if you put myself or Mark Carroll in against any of the old guys, we could have given them a go to the line.
‘I ran 3.36 in cross country season, I know I could run 3.34 if I was next to Eamonn (Coughlan) and those boys.
He added: ‘And it’s about time they acknowledged us instead of putting us down to make themselves look like legends. I think our sport needs a bit of support from the guys who used to run it. Maybe we need a fresh crew of people who want to help the sport.’
Cragg also spoke about the disappointment with the race he had just run and how he felt he was carrying demons on his back coming down the home straight when he knew he would not finish in the automatic qualifying positions.
‘I was in peak (condition), I performed at the beginning of August. I know that I have the ability to medal out there, when things are on fire, I could do it. I have got no control when I’m on fire and at times like the Olympic Games is when you reach your best.
‘But if you’re struggling on the edge of being great and you’re having a bad day, then the faults are going to be magnified.
‘I should have taken the lead with 300 metres to go, I felt like I was still jogging at that stage. And when I feel I need to work, it all just falls apart. And then I had no chance at 150 (metres to go) and the more I dug in there was no impact.’
He added: ‘The plan was to be at the front with 200 to go and then let the adrenalin kick in. But instead of the adrenalin kicking in, I had all these demons jumping on my shoulders with 100 to go’
The Irish 5000m indoor record holder also spoke about the loneliness of his sport and questioned his own participation in a sport that he has given so much to.
Emotionally Cragg revealed: ‘I live alone in a city where there are no people my own age. I’ve stuck with my coach for the last eight years and I come to somewhere like this and I’m just alone. And people are looking to f***ing tear you down when they can.
‘You get over injuries and you’re digging deep to find something else. I mean, I don’t know where I’m going to go from here.’