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Christopher racing to keep Olympic glory in the family

By Brendan McDaid

A promising young athlete from a Londonderry primary school said he one day hopes to follow in the footsteps of his Olympic medal-winning ancestor.

Christopher McLaughlin (11), a pupil at Long Tower Primary School in Bishop Street, is showing similar talent to that of his great grand uncle Francis Anthony (Anton) Hegarty, who won a silver medal running for Great Britain at the Antwerp Olympics in 1920.

Christopher has been in fine form of late, notching up three gold medals in the North West and Western Board heats for the Primary School Cross-Country Championships competition — beating around 150 others in each race.

His success means he will now go on to compete against Northern Ireland’s most talented young runners at the Schools Cross-Country Finals at Mallusk on February 24.

The Manchester United fan, who is also a talented footballer, was spotted as a stand-out runner by school principal Eamon Devlin last year.

Mr Devlin said: “Christopher has won the races by a good distance. He is in a league of his own.

“He is just a natural and doesn’t go to any running club. He has always done very well in sport and in other subjects.

“He had always performed well on sports days and is a good strong sprinter, but we got notification about the competition last year and decided to see how he performed running cross-country.”

As a Primary Six pupil, Christopher and his classmates were taken to nearby Lumen Christi College where it soon became apparent Christopher had a special talent for long distance running.

“He was lapping the other children in no time,” Mr Devlin said. “We knew he was the best here in the school, but we wanted to see how he would fare with other children.”

Despite being a year younger than his competitors last year, Christopher managed to come second in the North West heats and third in the Western Board heats.

He went to last year’s Northern Ireland final and despite a major setback was able to finish 11th.

Christopher said: “This boy fell right in front of me and knocked me off my balance. I stumbled and my daddy said he thought I would never get back up and everybody else got further ahead of me so I had to fight back.”

Christopher — who notched up a series of top grades in his recent transfer tests — said he would be delighted to follow his relative Anton to the Olympics.

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