By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Five months on, Sonia O’Sullivan and Gabriela Szabo are set to do battle once again. Following the dramatic Olympic Games 5,000-meter showdown in Sydney, where O’Sullivan was beaten into second place, the two will go head-to-head this weekend at the World Indoor championships in Lisbon, Portugal.
The in-form Szabo will be a strong favorite to get the better over her Irish rival this time over 3,000 meters. The 25-year-old Romanian is the reigning champion over the distance, and she recently broke the world record with an impressive 8 minutes, 32.88 seconds solo run in England.
"Gabriela likes to have people pushing her," said Szabo’s agent, Jos Hermens, "but in the last two years, every race seems to be set up as a world-record attempt. But the pressure of competition is different and Sonia will bring that to the event. She can follow any pace and the race could be one of the highlights in Lisbon."
By opting to compete, O’Sullivan is making her first appearance on the boards since 1997. Her decision came after she had enjoyed an 8:43.51 success outdoors in Australia.
"That proved to me that I was fit enough to race," she said. "The world indoors is really just a means to an end — to sharpen up for the world cross-country. I’d dearly love to win that title again."
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Mark Carroll will be Ireland’s other medal contender in Lisbon. The U.S.-based Carroll tuned up for the 3,000 meters with a victory over 1,500 meters in Germany last weekend, clocking 3:40.42. The reigning European indoor champion, he will face tough opposition from Hicham El Guerrouj in the final.