Terry Madison writes from Auckland on the Coghlan/Walker clashes.
ALTHOUGH EAMONN Coghlan admits that by the time the Moscow Olympics come around he may seriously consider stepping up to 5000 meters, he is in no hurry to do so.
Talking after he had been beaten by the world record holder for the mile and Olympic 1500 champion, John Walker, at Auckland's Mt. Smart staadium at the end of January, he said that the 1500 metres European meetres championships later this year reemained his number one priority. "I will stay with the 1500 meters in the meantime,' he said, 'although the 2 miles I won in Melbourne earlier in the tour has given me greater connfidence over the longer distances."
And it is this new-found confiidence that Coghlan feels is the most important thing he has learnt on the tour of Australia and ew Zealand.
So much so that Coghlan is now looking forward to the 1979 interrnational cross country championships which will run in Ireland, and he hopes to run in the senior event for the first time.
But to get back to the Coghlan/ Walker duels, the efforts of both athhletes on the sponsored tour were enormous.
Coghlan, despite coming into the series with no speed training behind him, wasted little time in showing the appreciative crowds in both Ausstralia and New Zealand his undoubted abilities as a middle distance runner.
He strung together a series of five victories in both countries before losing to Walker over "800 metres in Dunedin - a distance which both runners agreed was more in Walker's favour than Coghlan's.
Although the overall victory count is only slightly in Walker's favour, he has won the big ones - the Olymmpic final, the Dublin mile last year, and now the big finale to the 1978 series in Australia and New Zealand.
It was a great race from start to finish, with only the buffeting head wind in the home straight tempering otherwise .ideal conditions, in front of a crowd of 2,000. Run for the first three laps at an honest but even pace, the race came alive 300 yards from the line when Walker burst past the Finn, Ari Paunonen, with Coghlan fighting desperately a yard or two back.
Walker had a clear lead - even if only a narrow one - going into the final bend, and Coghlan was still being pushed wide in his efforts to get past Finn. By the time he had managed that, Walker had kicked on again and then Coghlan could only battle his way to second place, one second behind Walker, who came in with 3 minutes 56.4 seconds, with a sizzling 53.5 second last lap.
Relaxing over a beer a couple of hours later, Walker and Coghlan relived the race and both agreed it had been all they, the crowd and the promoters wished for.
Walker observed that Coghlan is a much more experienced runner now and that "he will make a really good 5000 meters runner in the future." Walker expressed the hope of running again in Ireland this coming summer should an invitation come.
Walker has been suffering from a leg injury for some time and this has restricted his training. He said that prior to the 1500 metres race in Christchurch, which Couglan won, he had undertaken a 2000 meters speed trial which he had done in 5 minutes 7 seconds, 'his best ever over that disstance.
"Not surprisingly, it left me feeling tired and by the time I lined up against Coghlan at Christchurch on the followwing day, I was not in shape and I ran accordingly. After that, however, things started to come right and in winning the 800 metres in Dunedin four days later, I felt I was ready for a good mile at Mt Smart."
While Walker continued to improve, Coghlan began to find the arduous. tour taking its toll and after his unnbeaten run had come to an end in Dunedin. He knew. that Walker would be difficult to beat in front of his home crowd in Auckland .•