Belfast Telegraph

Four NI athletes make World Para glory bid in Dubai

 

By Brian Hill

Derry Track Club's Conor McIlveen will take the start line today in the heats of the T38 400 metres on the opening day of the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai, where he is part of a small 11 person Irish team.

This will be McIlveen's debut in these Championships, where he will face a tough battle from his 14 other competitors to make tomorrow's final.

He has a personal best time of 57.36 seconds in an event for competitors who have mild cerebral palsy, involving slight co-ordination and balance problems.

The other three Northern Ireland athletes who will be competing are David Leavy (City of Lisburn AC) in the T38 1,500m, plus major World and Olympic star Michael McKillop (St Malachy's) in the T37 1,500m.

The fastest ever Paralympian, Jason Smyth of Derry Track Club, will be defending his title in the T13 100m category for athletes with moderate visual impairment.

Like McIlveen, Leavy will be making his Championship debut.

This is in stark contrast to McKillop, who has no less than eight gold medals at World and Olympic level.

Even he is surpassed by sprint maestro Smyth, who has amassed no less than 18 major championship medals in an unbeaten career.

A top four finish for any athlete will ensure a slot in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer.

Head of Paralympics Ireland James Nolan said: "This small, quality team is a mixture of new athletes in their first World Championship plus six very experienced competitors who have consistently won medals at major Championships.

"I am confident this team will make a significant impact in Dubai."

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