Kerry O'Flaherty struggles on World Championships debut

Kerry O'Flaherty has also qualified for next year's Olympics
Kerry O'Flaherty appeared to pay the price for attempting to go with the fast early pace in her heat

County Down woman Kerry O'Flaherty endured a tough baptism on the global athletics stage as she finished 13th in her 3,000m steeplechase heat at the World Championships in Beijing.

O'Flaherty clocked 10:05.10 - almost 23 seconds outside her personal best - as she slowed after attempting to match the fast early pace in hot conditions.

The 34-year-old set her personal best of 9:42.61 in early July.

That was both a World Championship and Olympic Games qualifying standard.

O'Flaherty and her two Irish team-mates Sara Treacy and Michelle Finn were all some way down on their personal bests as they struggled amid hot and humid conditions in the Chinese capital.

Treacy also finished 13th in her qualifier in 9:48.24 although her time was only four seconds outside her best with Finn clocking 9:55.27 to place ninth in her heat.

"I'm disappointed about the time but I'm delighted to be here," said O'Flaherty after the race.

"Hopefully on the road to Rio now it's given me the chance to run against the best in the world and experience the call room and everything."

In the last of the three heats, Turkish athlete Tugba Guvenc produced a fast early pace as she reached the first kilometre in 3:05.66.

O'Flaherty battled to stay with the leading group during the early stages of the race but then lost touch with the leaders as the Turk also paid for her early endeavours.

Finn Valley athlete Tori Pena missed out on a place in the women's pole vault final after her best leap of 4:30m left her 20th overall.

Californian native Pena set her personal best of 4.60m two years ago.

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