Alistair Cragg

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Alistair Cragg
Alistair Cragg Great South Run 2011.jpg
Alistair Cragg
Medal record
Men's athletics
Competitor for  Ireland
European Indoor Championships
Gold 2005 Madrid 3000 m

Alistair Ian Cragg is an international track and field athlete, who was born in Johannesburg on 13 June 1980, and brought up in South Africa and has since lived in England and United States where he attended the University of Arkansas. He races for Ireland and competes most often over 3000 metres and 5000 metres. He holds the Irish national records in both the 5000 metres and the 10,000 metres. He also holds the European record in the 5 km in 13:26 in Carlsbad, United States.



Cragg's father was a coach in South Africa and now also lives in Fayetteville, United States with his wife. His older brother, Duncan, went to Southern Methodist University from 1994-1999. Alistair followed him there in 1999. His first cross country season there, he was injured and finished the season poorly at the regional meet in Denton, Texas. Arkansas coach John McDonnell saw him after the race and said something about how he should not run if he was injured.

The next spring, Alistair was the top freshman finisher in the 5000 m at the NCAA Championship meet, smashing SMU freshman records in that event.

The following fall, another Cragg brother died and Alistair dropped out of SMU. After taking a year off, SMU had given away his scholarship and Alistair needed a new home. McDonnell made room for him on the Arkansas roster.

Cragg had an outstanding college career with the Arkansas Razorbacks under Coach McDonnell, winning individual NCAA titles at 3,000 m, 5,000 m and 10,000 m on the track, as well as indoor titles. In 2004, Cragg was voted Southeastern Conference athlete of the year[1] and the Track and Field News magazine Collegiate Athlete of the Year.

Cragg is considered by many[who?] to be the most outstanding distance runner in the history of Arkansas track and field. He is the school record holder for 3,000 m and 5,000 m and is the only Razorback to win the 10,000, 5,000 and 1,500 meter races at a single SEC Championship meet. Cragg won seven NCAA championships while at the University of Arkansas.

Professional career[edit]

McDonnell made the commitment to Cragg to coach him as a professional, along with collegiate team mate Daniel Lincoln.

Cragg declared for Ireland in 2003 having represented South Africa as a junior athlete in a cross country race. He qualified for an Irish passport on the basis on his ancestry and first obtained Irish nationality in 1985.[2] It was a controversial move as he has never lived in the country and first visited when he was 24.[3] He currently runs for Clonliffe Harriers, a club in Dublin.

Cragg made his début for Ireland at the 2003 European Cross Country Championships, where he finished a respectable 8th. In the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens he finished as top European in the 5000 m at 12th place. Cragg won the gold medal in the 2005 European Indoor Championships for 3,000 m. Unfortunately for Cragg he could not build on this success as injury forced him to miss most of the outdoor season, including the 2005 IAAF Athletics World Championships.

Cragg began the 2006 season well and finished 4th in the World Indoor Championships, just missing out on a medal. He was one of the favourites to win a medal in the 5000 m at the European Championships, but dropped out whilst leading the slow run final with around 800 metres to go. It is believed he had suffered an Achilles tendon injury.

During the early part of the 2007 season, Cragg made Olympic 'A' standards for the 2008 Olympic Games in the 1500 metres, 5000 metres and 10,000 metres. Whilst recording the standard in the latter event, he broke the seven-year-old Irish record for the distance. Cragg finished second behind Cathal Lombard at the 2007 Irish Cross Country Championships, held in Belfast.[4]

Beijing Olympics[edit]

In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Cragg competed in the 1500 m and 5000 m track events. He failed to qualify from heat section in the 1500 m, finishing 8th with a time of 3:44.90. In the first heat of the 5000 m, he finished sixth in his heat of the 5000 m with a time 13:38.57.[5] Immediately after this race, thinking he had failed to qualify, Cragg was emotional when he was interviewed about the pressures that are associated with being an Irish athlete. He criticized Irish media, who he said, place too many demands on track and field athletes, and the Irish public, for criticizing the Olympic team too hastily.[6][7] He criticized Ireland's former middle-distance athletes for lambasting his performances, saying he could match the likes of Eamonn Coghlan and others in a race. Cragg sat by himself watching the other two heats, dejected at his performance. However, it turned out that he had qualified for his second Olympic final as a fastest loser, with the sixth fastest time of all the qualifiers. He went on to participate in the 5,000 metre final, but did not finish.

In May 2009, he ran one of the best 5,000 metres of his career at the Adidas Track Classic in Carson City, Los Angeles. His time of 13:16.83 is ranked the third fastest in the world for 2009. He also won the 2009 Irish 5000 m championship in August 2009.

He came second at the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon in January 2011 behind Australian Shawn Forrest.[8] He reached the 5000 m final at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics, but finished in fourteenth place overall. The following month he ran at the Great South Run and claimed third place due to his well-timed pacing.[9]

London Olympics[edit]

Cragg did not do very well.[10] The woman from RTÉ asked him, "Realistically, should you have come to the Olympic Games?" Bernice Harrison, writing in The Irish Times, called this criticism "harsh".[11]

Major competition record[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
2003 European Cross Country Championships Edinburgh, Scotland 8th 9830 m 29:13
2004 World Cross Country Championships Brussels, Belgium 16th Short race
2004 Olympic Games Athens, Greece 12th 5000 m
2005 European Indoor Championship Madrid, Spain 1st 3000 m 7:46.32
2006 World Indoor Championships Moscow, Russia 4th 3000 m 7:46.43
2006 European Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 5000 m DNF
2008 Olympic Games Beijing, China 5000 m DNF
2010 European Athletics Championships Barcelona, Spain 5000 m DNF
2012 Olympic Games London, Great Britain 31st 5000 m 13:47.01 (h)

Irish records[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cragg wins SEC's top honor, 24 June 2004
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Irish Times feature on Cragg in 2004. Deals with his background and his move to Irish team[clarification needed]]]
  4. ^ Cragg breaks Irish 10k Record[clarification needed]]]
  5. ^[clarification needed]]]
  6. ^ [2] Cragg interview[clarification needed]]]
  7. ^ [3][clarification needed]]]
  8. ^ Perez outruns Goucher at Phoenix Half Marathon. IAAF (2011-01-17). Retrieved on 2011-01-19.
  9. ^ Martin, David (2011-10-30). Komon and Mergia take convincing victories in Portsmouth. IAAF. Retrieved on 2011-10-30.
  10. ^ Source?
  11. ^ Harrison, Bernice (11 August 2012). "To bring the Olympics closer to home, RTÉ's your only man Get stuck into ...". The Irish Times (Irish Times Trust). Retrieved 11 August 2012. "Some were heart-breaking: sailor Annalise Murphy on Monday was a lip-trembler, and the most candid one of the week was when the woman from RTÉ asked Alistair Cragg, who was full of excuses after his disappointing performance, “Realistically, should you have come to the Olympic Games?” Harsh maybe, but it was what we, by that time so full of boxing hope, were all thinking." 
  12. ^ Irish Indoor Records from[clarification needed]]]

External links[edit]