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HEPTATHLON LEAVES OCONNOR WITH HIGH HOPES

13 April 2018

HEPTATHLON LEAVES OCONNOR WITH HIGH HOPES

Kate O’Connor admitted her first taste of the athletics big time has left her hungry for more after coming an impressive eighth place in the Commonwealth Games heptathlon after two days of action at the Carrara Stadium.

The Newry-born prospect and the youngest member of Northern Ireland’s 13-strong athletics team for Gold Coast 2018 at just 17 years and five months; was just shy of her personal best in scoring 5695 points, a mere 560 behind England’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson who took gold with 6255.

 “I am delighted with that,” O’Connor said. “I was happy with my 800 metres and to come eighth in my first major championship is great. I definitely came in nervous but I eased into the competition and I need to learn how to use the crowd rather than be scared by it.”

On Day 2 of the competition, she produced a best of 5.64 metres in the long jump, the second-longest throw of the javelin competition of 46.34m and then finished up by running the 800m in 2:18.30. 

 “It was good to come out and show I was on form, “ she added. “Everything could have been better but it gives me hope for the summer.”

 On an evening where Leon Reid received his 200 metres bronze medal, there was another eighth-place finish from team-mate Adam Kirk-Smith in the 3000m steeplechase final in 8:48.40 with Conselsus Kipruto leading a Kenyan sweep of the medals.

 “I went out with a plan,” said the 27-year-old from Lisburn, who will now chase the European Championship qualifying mark of 8:40. 

“I wasn’t in the best shape but I was realistic about what I could achieve and that’s been down to everyone who supported me and made me believe I deserved a place up there.

 “The atmosphere was great too. I’ve never run in front of a crowd like this and you can’t stop and take it in. But I’m humbled by the volunteers here; people giving of their time. It’s been great.” 

 With Sommer Lecky going in the high jump final (5:25 BST) and Emma Mitchell in the 5000m final (6:20, BST) on Saturday; the final two members of the Northern Ireland team to appear at the Games will take the plunge early on Sunday morning in the marathon (Saturday 23:15, BST).

Rio Olympians Paul Pollock and Kevin Seaward, both competing here off the back of last month’s IAAF world half-marathon championships in Valencia, have traveled the globe for their craft.

 Pollock, who also works as a doctor in an Accident and Emergency department in Belfast, claimed his alternative life has brought huge boons.

 “Running has provided me with so many happy memories,” the 31-year-old from Holywood said. “Some of my most memorable runs are not races or when I ran my quickest times but rather they are memorable due to the company that I had alongside me or the location. 

 “From being chased by dogs in the Chilean mountains, to being cheered on by school kids in Malaysia. 

 “Or perhaps passing by a group of Africans in the oxygen thin heights of Kenya, to running down the straight of the Sambodromo seeing the Rio Olympic finishing line before me. Every runner has happy memories. Every runner has experiences. That is why we keep running.” 

 In what is expected to be a race run in up to 30 degrees, the close of the athletics programme will be a test for Kevin Seaward, who works as an assistant head teacher at a school in Leicestershire.

 "Bring it on", the 33-year-old declared.

 “The marathon is special. Everything changes from event to event e.g. the climate, the course. I am looking forward to the new challenge it brings.”