Belfast Telegraph

Revitalised Kirk can keep putting best foot forward in Belfast ahead of European quest

 

Running to form: Katie Kirk competes at the Mary Peters Track meeting tonight
Running to form: Katie Kirk competes at the Mary Peters Track meeting tonight

By Brian Hill

Katie Kirk's athletics fortunes have received a massive boost ahead of this evening's sixth Belfast International Athletics meeting at the Mary Peters Track.

The two-time Commonwealth Games athlete enjoyed a spectacular return to form at last weekend's Irish Championships in Dublin where she snatched an unexpected silver in the 800m, a mere 0.26 seconds behind all-conquering Ciara Mageean.

As a result, the University of Ulster student will now represent Ireland in the European Team Championships in Norway next weekend.

It marks an impressive return to top form for Kirk (25) following a lengthy injury-plagued spell of several years when it appeared doubtful if she would ever race competitively again.

That followed missing out on the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games final where she ran a personal best of two minutes 2.63 seconds.

Kirk now appears to have overcome these problems with a series of continually improving results this season.

Tonight, she will face top opposition in the form of the Republic's Nadia Power and Claire Mooney, whom she defeated in Dublin.

The top Irish competitor in the event is Portaferry's Mageean, who is in good two-lap form following her latest Irish title plus a recent time of under two minutes two seconds in Watford.

The 27-year-old is using the shorter event to sharpen her speed for her 1,500m World Championship bid in Doha.

However, the event may not see an Irish victory as it is loaded with international talent that will start as favourites.

Kenya's Eglay Nalyanya was eighth in last year's Commonwealth Games final in a time just outside two minutes and is the current African champion, while other competitors include Great Britain's Hannah Segrave, a Euro Under-23 medallist who recorded a similar time in London.

The men's 200m is another highlight and features Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Leon Reid, who just held off the Republic's Marcus Lawler last weekend to successfully defend his Irish title.

Reid will have his hands full tonight despite the late withdrawal of Lawler as he faces Adam Gemili, who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics and has a personal best of below 20 seconds. Gemili is a former European champion and was also a member of Great Britain's victorious World Championships relay team of 2017.

Also racing in the 200m is the Republic's Stephen Gaffney, who has qualified for the World Championships in Doha, while five-time Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smith is competing in both sprint events. In the 100m he faces Scottish trio Adam Thomas, Michael Olson and Cameron Tindle, plus Northern Ireland champion Dean Adams.

The triple jump will feature GB No.1 Naomi Ogbeta, who recently took the English title and is the GB Indoors champion.

The women's hurdles includes former GB Indoors champion Megan Marrs, who ran a personal best of 13.23 seconds at last year's meeting. She faces Irish champion Sarah Lavin.

International events start at 6.30pm

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