History has been made. Ireland’s Kate O’Connor became the first Irish heptathlete to win a major international medal after battling to silver at the European Under-20 Athletics Championships in Boras, Sweden.
O’Connor obliterated her own Irish record of 5,881 points and became the first Irish woman to surpass 6,000 points. To put this into perspective, only 13 athletes exceeded this points tally at the European Senior Championships in Berlin last August.
The 18 year-old from the Dundalk St Gerard’s athletics club made a spectacular start in her first four events. O’Connor clocked a good time of 14.61 in the 100m hurdles, cleared the high jump with a lifetime best of 1.81m, threw 13.41m in the shot put and clocked 24.82 in the 200m.
It was the near perfect all-round performance for the young Irish star who had been in fantastic form coming into these championships. O’Connor turned in impressive performances at the National Junior and U-23 Championships in Tullamore a few weeks back, adding to her medal haul with an Irish Junior U20 record of 48.98m in the javelin and PB’s in the 200m and long-jump respectively.
Following her brilliant start, the multi-talented athlete was well positioned going into the final day. O’Connor sat in third place with 3,543 points, just 22 points shy of the eventual gold medalist, Maria Vincente of Spain.
Over the course of the final three events of the day, O’Connor first went out to 5.73m in the long jump. She followed this up with a spectacular new Irish U23 record in the javelin with a huge throw of 52.92m.
As a things stood heading into the final event, the 800m, the top three competitors were separated by just 15 points. O’Connor sat in third place, with Maria Vincente of Spain lying in second and Annik Kalin in pole posiiton.
The 18-year old started strongly looking assured just behind the leader of the pack, It all came down to the final 100m where O’Connor threw everything she had into the final few metres. O’Connor crossed the line in a time of 2:16.98. She was narrowly passed out by Spain’s Vicente who produced a personal best of more than six seconds with 2:16.29 to claim gold.
The talented Irish star who is expected to take up a US athletics scholarship, claimed silver in what was one of the most memorable performances in Irish athletics to date. Her grueling efforts saw her rewarded a silver medal and an astonishing total score of 6,093 points – smashing the existing Irish Senior record, previously set by Liz Morland last summer.
In the half-century the U20 European Atheltics Championships has been running, Ireland had previously won 15 medals over 25 editions. O’Connor’s latest piece of silverware pushes out this tally to 16 with more Irish hopefuls looking to increase this tally over the coming days.