Michael McKillop: This gold shines brightest
Michael McKillop believes his gold in the 800m at the IPC European Championships in Swansea is his best performance ever – especially after spending a large part of this season out with injury.
McKillop battled back from a trapped nerve in his foot, which had plagued him since the 2013 World Championships, to blitz his way to the top of the podium yesterday.
And it was a highly convincing victory, his time of 1.58.16 enough to give Ireland their second gold after fellow Ulsterman Jason Smyth's 100m victory on Tuesday.
Smyth is favourite to successfully double up in today's 200m.
McKillop – who goes for a double of his own in the 1500m on Saturday – admits he's just glad to be back on the track after spending what has felt like an eternity on the sidelines, a period in which he wondered if his career was over.
"Whenever your career is on the line and you come back from such a severe injury it is an historic moment," he said.
"We are a small nation and don't win many medals. I am so pleased with what has happened.
"After the tough time I've had in the last eight months I'm just glad to be back racing," he said.
"After the Worlds I got injured and I hadn't run the 800m since then.
"So I was going into the unknown but thankfully I was able to run a quick enough time to win because the competition is hotting up.
"There's now an 18-year-old Russian – Chermen Kobesov – who was with me until 400m and he'll be a strong talent when we get to Rio (2016 Paralympics).
"I'm just glad there are more people in the field now and the event is getting better and stronger."
McKillop is a tried and tested major championship performer with three Paralympic gold medals plus five world titles – although he achieved a first in Swansea.
Gold in the 800m was his maiden European Championship crown and one that meant a lot to the 24-year-old middle distance ace from Glengormley.
"The emotion is high after what I've gone through – just to be racing again," he added.
"Now I can just go out and enjoy the 1500m on Saturday rather than worry about what I've got to do," he explained.
"If I win, I win – if I don't it doesn't matter so much.
"The 800m was the main goal because it was up first and I wanted to get a medal – now I just want to enjoy the 1500m," said McKillop, whose return has been greatly assisted by the support of the Sports Institute at Jordanstown.
McKillop crossed the line some 80 metres clear in a T38 event which includes athletes with mild cerebral palsy.
His time of 1.58.16 is 0.71 seconds faster than the World record set by South Africa's Malcolm Pringle back in 2004.
Unfortunately it does not qualify as a new record as McKillop is classified as a T37 athlete.
McKillop showed no signs of nervousness on the start line in only his third track race of the year.
He attacked from the gun by setting a fast sub 60 seconds first lap pace.
Rising star Kobesov accepted the challenge and was in close contention at the bell which McKillop reached in just 58.51.
However the Russian could not sustain the blistering pace and the St Malachy's man pulled clear.
McKillop had a huge nine-second winning margin over Kobesov who still set a PB of 2.06.11 with Ukraine's Valentyn Miedviediev taking bronze in 2.16.57.
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