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O'Connor loses gold in the final straight

 

Kate O'Connor
Kate O'Connor

By Brian Hill

Commonwealth Games athlete Kate O'Connor had the performance of her life yesterday when she secured a silver medal in the heptathlon at the European U20 Championships in Boras, Sweden.

In one of the closest competitions ever, the 18-year-old lost out after seven events by just 22 points to surprise winner Maria Vicente of Spain. O'Connor did, however, have the consolation of not only silver but a slew of Northern Ireland and Irish records.

Kate is now the World U20 leader in the heptathlon with a NI and Irish record points total of 6,093 which beats her previous best by a huge 212 points margin. The event was a nail-biting affair right up to the last few strides of the final 800 metres event. Prior to that, Kate had excelled herself with PB's in the high jump (1.81 metres), the 200 metres (24.82 secs) and her strongest event the javelin where she destroyed her own NI Senior record and Irish U23 record to produce new figures of 52.92 metres. This beat her previous best by almost three and a half metres.

That sent Kate into the final 800 metres event only 15 points behind leader Annik Kalin of Switzerland and 12 points behind Vicente.

In the race O'Connor dropped Kalin but was frustratingly overtaken for gold in the final 50 metres by the inspired Spaniard who broke her previous best time by some six seconds.

The Irish camp is quietly confident there will be further success today for Northern track athletes Aaron Sexton and Davicia Patterson in the 200 and 400 metres respectively .

In his heat yesterday, Sexton emphatically showed why he is the fastest in Europe. The North Down man took a relaxed lead in the home straight and with 50 metres to go simply checked on his opposition to make sure he was first across the finish. His time was still a fast 21.17 secs ahead of Alin Anton of Romania (21.49). Aaron's Irish team-mate Reality Usoha also qualified for the semis with a time of 21.80 secs. Elias Goer of Germany was the fastest qualifier but Sexton's PB of 20.69 secs makes him favourite for gold.

Patterson (18) may well be in a similar position after a masterful one-lap semi final where she slowed with 70 metres left after gaining a commanding lead.

Davicia still posted her second fastest time of 52.82 secs and the Beechmount girl will be in confident mood for the final as she easily defeated arch rival Amber Anning who was second fastest qualifier in 52.97 secs.

World Junior high jump silver medallist Sommer Lecky of Finn Valley also competes today in the high jump final following a qualification jump of 1.80 metres.

Meanwhile, Ireland's top middle distance runner Ciara Mageean will take on some of the best athletes in the world at the Müller Anniversary Games in London today.

The Portaferry woman will be relishing a return to the Olympic Stadium where she broke the NI mile record in 2017 after last week taking another three seconds off the time in Monaco for new figures of four mins 19.03 secs, which translates into a new NI 1,500 metres record of 4.01.21.

Such red hot form should ensure another class performance from Mageean whose race includes double European champion Laura Muir.

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