Reality check for Reid as her medal dream falls flat
Aileen Reid left Baku on Saturday disappointed but not completely down-hearted as her dream of an inaugural European Games medal went astray.
Reid entered Baku 2015 as the highest-ranked European on the world rankings, but the race never really got going for the Derry woman who finished sixth.
It took place away from the main cluster of Baku venues on Bilgah Beach and noticeably short of spectators on the looping cut-back course.
"I prepared properly for these Games and I was feeling good," explained Reid, having shown solid consistency in the world-series since starting slowly early this year and taking fourth at the London grand prix two weeks ago.
"I was expecting higher than sixth, but I don't feel sorry about not finishing first because I did my best and I came in the top 10."
Reid attempted to play down the favourite's tag last week, and pointed to returning Olympic gold and silver medallist Nicola Spirig (Switzerland) and Lisa Norden (Sweden) as top-calibre opponents.
She allowed Norden, Spirig and Holland's Rachel Klammer (World No 12) to get away during the 40-kilometre cycle.
The large chasing pack never looked like reeling them in, and Reid found herself fourth at the final transition into the race section, two minutes off the leading trio.
While running is Reid's strongest suit, she was off-colour on Saturday morning, and she fell back to seventh place in the first lap, before finishing sixth in 2:03.58, three and a half minutes behind Spirig.
Klammer edged Norden for the silver medal.
Reid refused to blame the conditions for her underperformance.
"It was windy and wavy, but that is part of the race and I enjoyed it," she said.
As Baku flies under the Olympic banner, these new games bring with them their share of Olympic heartbreak for Irish athletes, with Limerick man Aaron O'Brien failing to finish in the men's event yesterday.
The 20-year-old had completed the one-and-a-half kilometre swim in 20 minutes and 16 seconds, coming out of the water in 44th place, progressing further during the cycling transition up to 25th.
O'Brien pushed hard in his second of six bike laps, shaving nearly 100 seconds off his initial effort, but he paid for the impact, dropping back down to plus-10 minute laps after half of the cycle.
The 20-year-old's determination to break into the upper categories of a sport which enters its fifth Olympic games in Rio next year was evident to see, though the gruelling heat and hard work took its toll.
O'Brien stepped off the course early in the run section having transitioned from bike to run holding 47th place, five minutes and 19 seconds behind the leading group.