Sunday 25 August 2019

'Ecstatic' Dundalk teen O'Connor makes history with heptathlon silver in Sweden

To get on the podium, O'Connor needed to produce a superb second day of competition - and that's exactly what she did. Photo: Giancarlo Colombo/Sportsfile
To get on the podium, O'Connor needed to produce a superb second day of competition - and that's exactly what she did. Photo: Giancarlo Colombo/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

It needed to be special, and it was. Dundalk teenager Kate O'Connor created history for Irish athletics yesterday by becoming the first athlete to win a heptathlon medal at a major championships - the 18-year-old claiming silver at the European U-20 Championships in Boras, Sweden.

Her tally of 6,093 points was an Irish U-20, U-23 and senior record, and makes her the first Irish athlete to surpass the illustrious 6,000-point barrier. History in her hands, hers forever to keep.

"I'm completely ecstatic," said the 18-year-old. "I can't believe I finally broke 6,000 points - that's every heptathlete's goal at the beginning and I can't believe I've done it. To get the silver medal also just tops it all off."

To get on the podium, O'Connor needed to produce a superb second day of competition - and that's exactly what she did. She began with a 5.73m long jump, a decent but unexceptional effort, which left her fourth in the overall standings. In the afternoon's javelin she produced the best effort of her career by a whopping three metres, an Irish U-20 and U-23 record of 52.92m.

"That was really unexpected," she added. "My warm-up throws never really felt good but I knew it was there - it was just whether I could produce it or not and I did."

That left her in third position overall ahead of the final event, the 800m, where she needed to beat her chief rivals - Spain's Maria Vicente and Switzerland's Annik Kala - by about one second to secure the title.

She very nearly pulled it off, clocking 2:16.29 to come home second in the race and second overall. Vicente took gold with 6,115 points, while Kalan finished third with 6,069 points.

"The rain was coming down, the wind was blowing and I just went from the start. I tried my best and left everything out on the track. It paid off."

She paid tribute to the various coaches and mentors who helped her get on the podium, making special mention of her father, Michael, who was watching trackside.

"My Dad has been amazing and I wouldn't be here without him. I'm so proud of myself. It's amazing to be the first one to ever do it. I'm just looking forward to what the future holds."

Elsewhere, Davicia Patterson won her 400m semi-final in 52.81secs and has a strong medal chance in today's final, which takes place at 5:46pm Irish time.

Aaron Sexton coasted through the opening round of the men's 200m, winning in 21.17. Reality Osuoha advanced after finishing fourth in 21.80.

Deirdre Murray was impressive in her 400m hurdles heat, clocking 60.08 to advance in third place.

In the women's 800m, Sophie O'Sullivan bowed out after finishing eighth in her semi-final in 2:11.53, with Jo Keane also eighth in 2:13.51.

Mark Milner was just denied a place in the men's 800 final after finishing fourth in the semi-final in 1:53.05.

Louis O'Loughlin finished seventh in his heat in 1:55.74.

Irish Independent

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