Belfast Telegraph

Commonwealth Games: Kirk's bid to mix with world's best is up and running

Katie Kirk is aiming high after battling her nerves

By Brian Hill

The Katie Kirk bandwagon rolled on in style at Hampden Park yesterday as she qualified with ease for today's 800 metres semi-finals in a time just 0.22 seconds outside her personal best.

The 20-year-old QUB student showed a maturity beyond her years by displaying superb tactical knowhow to finish second in her heat, which contained several athletes with significantly faster times.

These athletes included Kenya's World champion Eunice Sum and sub-two minutes runner British international Marilyn Okoro.

Sum and Okoro led a very fast pace in the early stages before slowing with the field, going through 400 metres in around 60 seconds.

Five athletes, including Kirk, then battled together until 150 metres to go when Sum broke clear. Kirk then forced herself into second place in the home straight and held it to the line despite coming under attack from Australia's Brittany McGowan.

Sum took the victory in 2:02.36 with Kirk recording 2:03.00 to place her seventh fastest out of 29 first round times.

Afterwards, Kirk said: "I am really pleased. That was a very tough race, particularly as the World champion was racing.

"My legs are really sore at the minute. We slowed up after the first lap but I felt comfortable even though the pace picked up. I never eased up as my Dad has always told me to run to the line.

"I was a bit sick last night and before the race because of nerves. However I am a happy girl to make the semis, where I will give my all and hopefully get a personal best."

In today's semi-final, Kirk faces 2012 European champion Lynsey Sharp, sub-two minutes runner Jessica Judd and multi-GB medallist Jenny Meadows, with only the first three guaranteed a final spot.

Up until recently, no-one would have predicted that the daughter of former NI 800 metres record holder Mark Kirk would have been in a position to battle with some of the best athletes in the world.

However, Kirk, who helped to light the 2012 Olympic flame, has captured both the British U23 800 metres title and the Irish Senior title in Dublin earlier this month.

Northern Ireland's Leon Reid qualified for today's 200 metres semi-finals after finishing third in his first round heat in a time of 20.97 seconds, which was marginally slower than his season's best time. He qualified as 21st fastest athlete out of 70.

He was leading before being passed in the final 50 metres by winner Andre De Grasse of Canada (20.56 seconds) and Akani Simbine of South Africa (20.77 seconds).

In the Steeplechase final, Newcastle's Kerry O'Flaherty had to settle for 11th place, although her time of nine minutes 55.94 seconds was her third fastest ever.

For a long period Kerry ran in tandem with a group of runners that included Eilish McColgan, daughter of former World champion Liz.

However, O'Flaherty became detached and had to finish the final 600 metres on her own. The race was won by Kenya's Purity Kirui in 9:30.96.

Belfast's Jason Harvey had a torrid time in his 400 metres hurdles semi-final.

He drew the unpopular inside lane and struggled to stay with the leaders in a race won by Jamaica's Cornel Fredericks in 49.51 seconds. Harvey came fifth in 52.06 seconds.

Meanwhile, England's Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford clinched gold yesterday with a leap of 8.20 metres.

Another English athlete to medal was Jess Taylor, who took bronze in the heptathlon.

Belfast Telegraph

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