Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Leon Reid makes history with a chance of medal glory

By Brian Hill

Leon Reid created Northern Ireland athletics history in the Carrara Stadium last night when he became the first athlete from the province to reach a 200m final.

The 23-year-old former European U23 silver medallist was under serious pressure to perform well after a scintillating first round heat where he was ninth fastest from 64 starters.

Reid did not disappoint as he stormed out of his blocks in the favoured lane five in front of a capacity 35,000 crowd, including his mum from Strabane.

He maintained his pace through the bend and, with some 40m to go, realised he was in the top two. This ensured automatic qualification for the final.

Reid slowed in the last few metres with some observers fearing he had pulled a muscle. He was, in fact, simply conserving energy.

The race was won by Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago in 20.41 seconds with Reid recording one of his fastest times of 20.61. Fastest qualifier was England's Zharnel Hughes - in 20.37 - who Reid beat in the British Championships last year.

The normally reserved Reid could not disguise his pleasure at reaching a major final, admitting: "I held my position and came through at the end. I got the job done. I am really happy especially as my mum is here. I felt all along that I could make the final.

"I might possibly be in the best shape of my life. I will just have to see how the final goes. I am ready for it."

The small Northern Ireland team plus many fans will be watching today's final carefully to see if Reid can defy the odds and threaten for a medal against a world class field.

Born and raised in England's West Country, where he still trains at Bath, he won European 200m medals for Britain at Junior and U23 level before opting for the land of his mother's birth.

Meanwhile, Ulster sprint queen Amy Foster announced that she had almost certainly run her last Commonwealth Games race.

The 29-year-old had just completed her 200m semi-final, finishing in eighth place in 24.02 seconds.

The race was won by Shericka Jackson of Jamaica in a world class PB of 22.28 from GB's Dina Asher-Smith (22.44).

This was Foster's fourth race at these Games in which she reached two semi-finals. This was despite a debacle at the start of her first round 200m heat, Games organisers unable to supply her with the mandatory measuring tape to enable her to carry out essential checks on the positioning of her starting blocks.

The Lisburn AC sprinter said: "It is tricky in the inside lane and my hamstrings were sore.

"This is my third Games and 10th Commonwealth race. I think the Birmingham Games in four years is just too far.

"I would, however, want to go to the Tokyo Olympics in two years if possible. I had my best season ever last year and I would particularly like to get the Irish record to myself."

In addition to Reid, today's programme also includes 17-year-old Kate O'Connor in the heptathlon which comprises 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin and 800m.

The Dundalk schoolgirl, who was born in the province, has broken several NI and Irish records this year at both Senior and Junior levels. O'Connor's indoor pentathlon record of 4,108 points, set in January, placed her top of the World Junior list.

European 1,500m bronze medallist Ciara Mageean goes in the first round of the 800m.

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