Anna’s Olympic stadium dream
Anna McIlmoyle will today see a childhood dream come true when she becomes the first Northern Ireland athlete to compete in an official event at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Anna, the 16-year-old daughter of Commonwealth Games representative Wendy Phillips who is also her coach, will be part of the special event which features athletes from Ulster, Munster, Connaught and Leinster as well as those from Wales, Scotland and England.
The Bloomfield Collegiate pupil, one of Northern Ireland’s top hurdlers as well as a multi-event competitor, qualified for the event at the Powerade On Your Marks competition which took place at the Antrim Forum last month.
Apart from relishing the chance to compete on the Olympic stage, Anna — who is aiming to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the World Championships in 2017 which are being held in London — will also enjoy being accompanied by Irish Olympic hopeful Derval O'Rourke.
Anna, whose Godmother is Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters, said: “I am absolutely over the moon. I’ve been trying to get Olympic tickets and every avenue I’ve tried just didn’t work out and this was my last hope and I can’t believe it.
“Derval is one of my idols so to travel over with her and to be able to meet Jess Ennis’ coach Tony Minichello is unbelievable.”
The dream opportunity comes a year after the 16-year-old’s career was halted when she sustaining severe burns on both thighs and was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital, losing four months of training.
Not only is it a special day for Anna but also for mum Wendy, who trained alongside Dame Mary between 1970-74 and also had her own highs and lows as an athlete.
“I trained with Mary and Buster McShane and I was actually the one who taught Mary the Fosbury Flop. Up to then she was jumping 5ft 5’ and when she got the Fosbury Flop it took her up to 5ft 11’ and that made a big difference in terms of points,” said mum Wendy.
“I competed at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, my mum Molly coached me and many others the high jump — at one point Northern Ireland had five high jumpers in the Great Britain squad.
“I was lined up for the 1984 Olympic Games. Going into the trials I was ranked two but two weeks before them I skidded when trying the javelin which was part of the Hepthalon and ripped ligaments and that was my dream over.
“So to be able to come now to the Olympic Stadium in London with my daughter, who I coach is just amazing.
“Apart from actually competing at the Olympics, if you were planning a perfect day this would be it. Jessica Ennis is Anna’s hero and to have a session with her coach is amazing. And she gets to compete in two races with the times recorded the first official track times for the Stadium. Of course they will then be superceded by the British Universities which start on Friday.
“It’s also nice that it’s Dame Mary’s Goddaughter who will be the first from here on the track.”