13 April 2018
Northern Ireland athletes continued to impress on the day six of the athletics at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast. After Leon Reid’s surprise bronze medal on Thursday, there were top eight finishes yesterday for Kate O’Connor and Adam Kirk-Smith in the heptathlon and 3000m steeplechase respectively.
Seventeen-year-old O’Connor completed a superb two days competition by sneaking into eighth place overall in the final event, the 800m. The Dundalk schoolgirl had been ninth overnight and enjoyed a fruitful second day producing a best of 5.64m in the long jump, the second-longest throw of the entire javelin competition of 46.34m and then finished up by running the 800m in 2:18.30.
That left the Ballymena-born athlete – the youngest member of NI athletics team –just shy of her personal best in scoring 5695 points, 560 behind England’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson who took gold with 6255. O’Connor admitted her first taste of athletics big time has left her hungry for more.
“I am delighted with that,” O’Connor said. “I was happy with my 800 metres and to come eighth in my first major championships is great. I’ve learnt how to use the crowd. I definitely came in nervous but I eased into the competition and I need to learn how to use the crowd rather than be scared by it.”
Kirk-Smith adopted a conservative approach in the 3000m steeplechase that brought its own reward in the end. The Lisburn man was at the back of the field on the opening lap as three Kenyans, led by Olympic and world champion Consesius Kipruto, set off at lightning pace. While the race for medals quickly narrowed down to the Kenyans, a Ugandan and a Canadian, Kirk-Smith was working his way through the field.
Kipruto took command on the last lap before going on to win in a Games record of 8:10.08. Second place went to compatriot Abraham Kibiwott with Amos Kirui pipping the game but unfortunate Matthew Hughes of Canada right on the line for the bronze medal to make it a Kenyan 1-2-3. The DTC athlete finished strongly for eighth in 8:48.40, 11 seconds outside his best, but auguring well for his prospects at this summer’s Europeans in Berlin.
“I went out with a plan,” said the 27-year-old who is based in London. “I wasn’t in the best shape but I was realistic about what I could achieve and that’s been down to everyone who supported me and made me believe I deserved a place up there. The atmosphere was great too. I’ve never run in front of a crowd like this and you can’t stop and take it in. But I’m humbled by the volunteers here, people giving of their time. It’s been great.”