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 Fayetteville, Arkansas where he attended the University of Arkansas. He races for Ireland and competes most often over 3,000 and 5,000 metres.
The next spring, Alistair was the top freshman finisher in the 5000m 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 3,000m, 5,000m and 10,000m on the track, as well as indoor titles. In 2004, Cragg was voted SEC athlete of the year and the Track and Field News magazine Collegiate Athlete of the Year.
Cragg is considered by many to be the most outstanding distance runner in the long and distinguished history of Arkansas track and field. He is the school record holder for 3,000m, 5,000m 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.
McDonnell made the commitment to Cragg to coach him as a professional, along with collegiate teammate 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. It was a controversial move as he has never lived in the country and first visited when he was 24. He currently runs for Clonliffe Harriers, a club in Dublin.
Cragg made his debut 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 12th place. Cragg won the gold medal in the 2005 European Indoor Championships for 3,000m. 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 5000m 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 has made Olympic 'A' standards for the 2008 Olympic Games in the 1500 metres, 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres. Whilst recording the standard in the latter event, he broke the 7-year old Irish record for the distance. Cragg finished second behind Cathal Lombard at the 2007 Irish Cross Country Championships, held in Belfast.
In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Cragg competed in the 1500m and 5000m track events. He failed to qualify from heat section in the 1500m, finishing 8th with a time of 3:44.90. In the first heat of the 5000m, he finished 6th in his heat of the 5000m with a time 13:38.57. 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. . 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.
|2003||European Cross Country Championships||Edinburgh, Scotland||8th||9830m||29.13||Irish debut|
|2004||Olympic Games||Athens, Greece||12th||5000m||13:43.06|
|2005||European Indoor Championship||Madrid, Spain||1st||3000m||7:46.32|
|2006||World Indoor Championships||Moscow, Russia||4th||3000m||7:46.43|
|2006||European Championships||Gothenburg, Sweden||dnf||5000m||dnf|
|2008||Olympic Games||Beijing, China||dnf||5000m||dnf||2nd Olympic 5000m final|