Foster ready to seize late chance for Games glory
Top sprinter Amy Foster and hammer thrower Dempsey McGuigan will spearhead the 13-strong NI athletics challenge which commences in the 30,000 seater Carrara Stadium in the early hours of tomorrow morning at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Chief Athletics coach Jackie Newton reckons these two will use their extensive experience to show that the team is in the best possible shape to face the immense challenges over the coming days.
No expense has been spared by Athletics NI for training camps and coaching support to assist the athletes who include 17-year-olds Kate O’Connor in the heptathlon and Sommer Lecky in the high jump.
“We are ready. Our target has been to ensure that our athletes arrive at the start of their events in the best possible condition for either a personal best or a season’s best. Achieving that will of course depend on the conditions and how their events pan out. But if they get their best result that will meet our expectations,” says Newton.
Weather conditions on the Gold Coast in recent days have unfortunately been far from ideal for good performances. An off shore cyclone has produced windy and at times thunderstorm conditions though temperatures in the mid 20 degrees will facilitate the sprinters.
The first round of the 100m comes as a huge relief for 29-year-old Foster who will be participating in her third Games. The Newtownards ace has had a torrid time in the lead-up to these Championships as she only received confirmation a month ago that she would be competing in Australia.
This was despite the fact that in the short indoor season she was in the form of her life with a new Irish record of 7.27 seconds for 60m.
The difficulty was that in the carefully crafted NI selection criteria she was only ranked 33rd in the world class Commonwealth rankings. The Lisburn AC runner was therefore only selected when athletics was awarded an additional place on the Games team.
Coach Davy Reid is however optimistic that Foster may get close to her NI record of 11.40. He pointed out that one of her fastest times of 11.42 was in fact achieved in Australia last year. He did however admit that because of all of the uncertainty regarding selection, his protege has only had a very short time to adjust her training from 60m to the 100m outdoors event.
Foster’s objective will be to qualify for the semi-final races later tomorrow. Competition is cut throat as the 100m is one of the real quality events in the athletics programme with world class athletes such as GB’s Dina Asher Smith competing. All Foster’s big event experience will come into play over the next few days as she will also be racing over 200m.
In the hammer Finn Valley’s McGuigan will be competing in what is a straight final.
The 24-year-old has just arrived from Mississippi University where he is studying for a degree. He will be returning immediately after his event to compete for his university at the start of the US season.
McGuigan should however take these pressures in his stride as he was one of the province’s most successful athletes in the last Games in Glasgow where he finished 11th in the final.
Like most athletes at these Games, McGuigan has had very little opportunity to compete this year because of the early timing of the Games.
However his recent throw of 69.15m at Fort Worth is his fifth best ever, proving he is in good form.
McGuigan will be hoping to get close to his PB of 70.55m.
NI athletes competing on Monday will be high hurdler Ben Reynolds, double World Junior 1,500m para champion Jack Agnew, NI 10,000m record holder Emma Mitchell and European 1,500m bronze medallist Ciara Mageean who captains the team.
Mageean said: “It is a huge honour to be captain of this fantastic group of athletes.
“The atmosphere in the holding camp has been fantastic. We are excited to step out with our NI vests and give our best for our wee country.”