18 August 2019 – The three DTC representatives put in a hard day’s graft to come away with three gold and one silver medal from the National Masters’ Track & Field Championships in Tullamore, County Offaly.

Robert Bigger gets ready to apply the coup-de-grace.

Robert Bigger capped an excellent season where he has consistently recorded the fastest times by an M60 for the middle-distance events in the UK and Ireland by winning both the 800m and 1500m.

Cathal takes gold in the 800m amid a monsoon.

Cathal McLaughlin added a third title for the DTC contingent with a masterful display of racing tactics in the M50 age group. Final success of the day came from a newcomer David Stewart who was anything but a newcomer. David was a sub-2 minute 800m runner a number of years ago but also a 1.80m high jumper, achieved on natural ability and without any professional coaching. And it was at that latter event, he took his silver medal that promises to be the first of many. Full results on the website www.athleticsireland.ie


Conor McIlveen made his first appearance in NI & Ulster colours when he represented the province at the Manchester International. Dropping down in distance, McIlveen lined up in the Ambulant 100m that included athletes from all disability classes. In blustery conditions, the Derry Track Club ace put in a credible performance to 7th in a strong field with a 13.06 seconds timing to gain 2 points for the team.

Conor is third from the left in the back row.

After such a tremendous effort from the whole team, in somewhat unfavourable conditions, the team placed 7th overall with 96 points in total. Congratulations not only to the athletes, but also to their personal coaches, whose hard work shone through the clouds.

Full results can be found here: https://www.thepowerof10.info/resultsfiles/2019/287413_6002_15082019124951.pdf


Ciara Mageean showed that she is progressing nicely toward the world championships in Doha this autumn by picking up her third consecutive 800m title at the Irish Life National Senior Track & Field Championships in Morton Stadium, Dublin. The meeting also decided selections for Ireland’s team at the European League in Norway in two weeks time.

Mageean waited until the final furlong before imposing her authority on the field in what had been a slow race up to that point. The City of Lisburn athlete picked up the pace again on the homestraight to come home clear in a modest 2:07.30 with 2014 champion Katie Kirk continuing an impressive comeback season by taking the runner up spot in 2:07.56.

Letterkenny’s Mark English made it a two-lap double for the northern province with a controlled victory in the men’s race despite coming under pressure from Kildare’s John Fitzsimons on the final straight. English stopped the clock at 1:48.15, looking comfortable, and will now give his full attention to preparations for Doha after completing his medical studies at UCD.

Leon Reid’s decision to concentrate on the 200m, the distance at which he took a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games last year, was rewarded when he claimed the gold medal, narrowly beating arch rival Marcus Lawler from Carlow in 20.62 seconds.

There was a silver lining to the clouds hanging over Santry yesterday for quite a number of Ulster athletes. Jason Harvey was disappointed after losing out by centimetres to Paul Byrne in the 400m hurdles when the destination of the gold medal was not decided until the very finish line. Just five-hundredths separated the pair with the St. Abban’s athlete getting the decision in 51.73 seconds despite Harvey putting in his best performance for some time.

Jason Smyth narrowly missed out on the gold medal in the 100m

It took the camera to separate Paralympic champion Jason Smyth from Travane Morrison in the 100m but the Tralee-based American given the decision by two-hundredths in 10.61 seconds. Tirchonnaill’s Kelly McGrory chased home Nessa Millet in the 400m hurdles and City of Derry’s Conor Bradley was unlucky to lose out to DSD’s Hiko Tonosa in a competitive 5000m where any one of four men could have taken the title in the final sprint for the line.

In the field, Finn Valley’s John Kelly struck silver in the shot with a mighty heave of 17.60m while his club colleague Sommer Lecky suffered a surprise defeat in the high jump to Pippa Rogan who cleared 1.85m to the Castlederg woman’s 1.80m.

On Saturday, Stephen Scullion retained his 10,000m title as he moved away after two-thirds of the distance before going away to win by almost eight seconds from runner-up Mick Clohisey in 29:36.33.  The Belfast man, who is US-based, indicated after the race that he would take up his selection for the marathon at this year’s World Championship marathon in November. City of Lisburn’s Ellen McCartney successfully defended her pole vault title after a quiet season with a best clearance of 3.85m.  Unfortunately, one of the expected stars of the meeting, last season’s European medallist Thomas Barr, pulled out of the 400m hurdles where he was seeking his ninth consecutive title on account of a calf niggle.


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Michael McKillop made an impressive opener winning the 1500m in Magherafelt.

Michael McKillop knows the odds are stacked against him adding a tenth IPC Athletics World Championships gold medal when the 2019 edition is held in Dubai this autumn. It is not the two years of persistent and niggling injuries, that he believes have been brought on by his cerebral palsy which become more evident as the years go by, but recent rule changes that pose the biggest threat to his unbeaten record.

McKillop opened his account for the year last weekend when he chose a low-key meeting to get back in the way of racing with a 1500m at the Meadowbank track in Magherafelt. Although the winning time (4:17.62), the 29-year-old Bedford & County athlete came away with a win with both himself and his coach, and father, Paddy McKillop expressing their pleasure at the way things had gone.

“It was just a question of reacquainting his legs with track racing because he has done very little speed training yet and the world championships are still almost four months away,” said Paddy.

However, it is not the usual challenge of getting to a peak with another major event. Coach and athlete are well used to that with four Paralympic and two European as well as the nine world golds nestling safely back in the trophy cabinet. The more imminent threat to his status as number one has come in two rules changes enacted by the International Paralympic Committee.

The first of these was to merge McKillop’s T37 category with the T38 of those whose cerebral palsy is determined to cause less effect in the extremities of the limbs.  McKillop, whose condition comes from his brain being deprived of oxygen for only a few seconds at birth, now will have to go head to head with athletes found in the past to be inherently stronger than him.

The second change is even more profound in that athletes with brain damage are now being classified in the same category as those with cerebral palsy. This has allowed two strong pretenders to McKillop’s crown to enter the competition, one of these is a Canadian who was on an athletics scholarship in the United States when he was hit on the head by a baseball causing brain damage. He recently entered his first Paralympic competition and came away with times of 1:57 for 800m and 3:57 for 1500m – McKillop has not bettered those times for six years.

“There are always challenges in life especially for Paralympic athletes,” said Michael. “I feel I’ve won my first battle in getting back after all the injuries.  When I wake up the morning and I’m able to run, it’s a good day. Obviously, I’m not where I want to be at the moment but I’m getting there but there’s plenty of time.

“I know that it’s going to be difficult in Dubai but it will be championship racing and the gold medal does not always go to the fastest competitor. I have years of racing experience built up over many championships and I should be able to pull something out of the bag.

“I intend carrying on until Tokyo next year but that will definitely be my last Paralympics. That is not to say that if someone offered me a good job with a decent salary after the worlds, I would not take it.

“I have to take a broader view now and be more ambitious.  My wife has made a lot of sacrifices for me in terms of holidays and in many other ways.  I have been in this sport since I was 10 and I won my first world championship at 16 – it’s been a long road. I want to do normal things like weekends instead of Saturdays just sitting around all day recovering from a session in the morning. I have to step up to the plate and look at the bigger picture. Starting a family would be something special,” he reflected.

McKillop returns to competitive action tomorrow when he competes over 1500m at the Drogheda IMC Meeting in the Lourdes Stadium. He will be looking to better the modest 4:45 standard for Dubai but knows sterner hurdles loom just over the horizon. Meantime there is the grind of another arduous preparation and hopefully another gold medal for the cabinet in Randalstown.