Saturday 10 December 2016

Golden Paralympic hero Michael McKillop to 'hang spikes up with pride' after Tokyo 2020

Published 11/09/2016 | 15:14

Michael McKillop of Ireland celebrates with his gold medal after winning the Men's 1500m T37 Final at the Olympic Stadium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Michael McKillop of Ireland celebrates with his gold medal after winning the Men's 1500m T37 Final at the Olympic Stadium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Michael McKillop of Ireland celebrates after winning the Men's 1500m T37 Final at the Olympic Stadium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Michael Mckillop of Ireland celebrates winning the gold
Michael McKillop
Orla Comerford of Ireland competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

Ireland's Michael McKillop has claimed his fourth Paralympic career gold with victory in the T37 1,500m final in Rio.

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The Glengormley native battled through the 29C heat to take the lead with 600m to go with Canada's Liam Stanley the only competitor to stay with the Irishman.

He eased away from the Canadian in the final 200m to cruise to victory in a time of 4:12.12, which is well outside his own world record but fine running in the hot conditions

McKillop, who has a form of cerebral palsy, won his first Paralympic gold in the 800m at the Beijing Games before retaining the title at London 2012 and adding 1,500m glory for good measure.

Speaking afterwards, an exhausted and emotional McKillop said: “This one is special because I've come through a really tough time… and I'm just glad that I was able to go out and win because of the tough times. I had to stay focussed and realise what life is about, it's not just about winning gold medals, it's about living and being proud to live the life that I have, and I'm lucky!”

On fulfilling the expectations of his fans, he added: “It's an incredible experience to live up to people's expectations once again. It's mentally tough but when you go to bed two nights in a row and Jason's got his medal on the bedside table it's a hard one to take.

"Everyone around us looked at the medal and I avoided it at all costs because I had it in my head that I was going to win my own gold medal. I'll always remember those times but in 2017 I'll still be there. I'm going to still be fighting and by the time I go to Tokyo I can hang my spikes up with pride.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny led the congratulations for McKillop, hailing the 26-year-old's inspirational performance.

“I would like to congratulate Mchael on his brilliant victory," said Kenny.

"He has underlined his tremendous talent here again to add to the three gold medals he has already won.

“He is a truly inspirational figure and his achievements are a worthy reward for his dedication to his sport.”

It's Ireland's third medal of the Paralympic Games after Derry's Jason Smyth won gold in the T13 100m final on Friday and Galway track cyclist Eoghan Clifford secured bronze in the C3 Individual Pursuit.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Orla Comerford finished in eighth position in the T13 100m final.

The 18-year-old ran a personal best to qualify for the final but was no match for her more experienced rivals.

Ukraine's Leilia Adzhaemetova set a new world record of 11.79 seconds in claiming the gold.

Comerford finished in a time of 12.87, just six-hundredths outside her personal best from the heats.

Elsewhere at the Paralympics today, Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal finished fifth in the Individual B Pursuit qualifiers at the Velodrome and just missed out on a place in the medal race.

In the pool, Ellen Keane finished in 11th position overall in the heats of the SM9 200m Individual Medley Heats and failed to make the final.

Ailbhe Kelly finished eighth in her heat of the S8 100m freestyle heat in a time of 1:20.65 and failed to advance.

Back at the velodrome, Damien Vereker and Sean Hahessy finished eighth in the Individual Time Trial, which was won by Tristan Bangma of the Netherlands in a new Paralympic record of 59.822 seconds

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