Belfast Telegraph

Leon Reid wins Northern Ireland's first athletics medal at Commonwealth Games in 28 years

Leon Reid claimed Northern Ireland’s first athletics medal at the Commonwealth Games in 28 years by brilliantly taking a bronze in the 200 metres final in Gold Coast in Thursday night.

The 23-year-old originally placed fourth in 20.55 seconds but then was promoted one place when England’s Zharnel Hughes was disqualified for an infraction with Trinidad’s Jereem Richards confirmed in gold following an appeal, and Canada’s Aaron Brownlanding silver.

In front of the onlooking Usain Bolt, it was Bath-based Reid’s second-quickest ever race and upon learning of the news as he left the track, his emotions ran over at a slice of history.

“I had a little cry,” he revealed. “I’m very excited. I’m going to find my Mum and celebrate tonight. I’m going jet-skiing - but after the medal ceremony (on Friday).

“Most importantly for the team, I hope we can all move up together. All of them were here supporting me and I feel they were there in the last 50 with me. I could hear my name being screamed and I wasn’t going to give up. I fought to the end and it managed to pay off.”

This was a perfect return on hard work behind the scenes to get the 13-strong Northern Ireland team to the start line in Australia in prime form – and a boost in taking the sport forward in the province, insisted Athletics NI’s director of coaching Jackie Newton.

“We’ve worked so hard together - athletes, personal coaches and staff,” she said.

“We set out our vision together to get every athlete here in their best shape and everyone has played their part. This medal for Leon shows what we can do with focus, determination and vision. This shows we can compete with the best of them. Leon’s performance will inspire everyone else and instil belief in what can be achieved.”

Northern Ireland’s team captain Ciara Mageean ended her Games in the semi-finals of the 800 metres, battling her way to seventh place in a time of 2:03.30.

In, according to records, the quickest 800m qualifying round in Games history, the 26-year-old from Portaferry admitted there was little more that could have been accomplished following her previous run to the 1500m final earlier in the week.

“I’m slightly disappointed,” she said. “I gave my all in those 1500s. I was fighting in that. I prepared myself for both but this was hard stepping out here. It was either going to be really fast or slow and steady and I’d prepared myself for both. But when it stepped up, they went away.

“But I feel a lot more confident coming out of this than I did last year.  I have to thank Steve Vernon my coach for getting me geared up for this and to my former coach Jerry Kiernan for all the work he put in as well. I’m benefitting from both of them now and I’m looking forward to going for the Europeans.”

Kate O’Connor, the youngest member of NI’s athletics team here at the age of 17 years and four months, had an excellent Day One in the heptathlon, sitting in ninth place overnight with 3318 points.

The teen opened up with a run of 14.99 secs in the 100m hurdles and then equalled her personal best of 1.78 metres in the high jump. Later, she threw 11.97m in the shot before running the 200m in 25.26 seconds to finish fourth in Heat 1. She will resume in the long jump on Friday (0130, GMT).

“I was pretty happy,” O’Connor said. “My high jump was a bit shaky but I managed to pulled it together to equal my PB. I would have liked to though further in the shot put but the 200m felt I pretty good run. But I’d like to come out on Day 2 and perform well.”

Meanwhile Adam Kirk Smith admits he’s been inspired by a late running icon as he heads into Friday’s 3000m steeplechase final (1235, BST).

The 27-year-old from Lisburn, who has two degrees in anthropology, has put his academic life on hold as well as a sideline in sailing the ocean waves.

But he claims the work of Sir Roger Bannister, who passed away last month, make him believe he can juggle both careers.

“His achievements made an enormous impact on the public awareness of athletics and inspired so many people. More than that, his role in medical practice and research is something people are less aware of, and when interviewed about his greatest achievement he spoke about that, not his sport.

“His life is an example of what the human body can manage when trained scientifically, rigorously and thoughtfully, but also what we might all be able to achieve if we commit ourselves with that same application to something outside sport.”

Emma Mitchell, fresh from setting a Northern Ireland record in the 10,000m final earlier this week, will compete in the 5,000 final early on Saturday (0620, BST).

Sommer Lecky now has a direct pass into Saturday’s high jump final (0600, BST) after the qualifying phase was removed. “I want to compete to the best of my ability,” the 17-year-old from Co. Tyrone said.

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