Fisher and Mills all set for Samoan Youth Games
THE countdown has begun to the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa from September 5-11. Two Northern Ireland athletes have been selected for the event that sees 1,000 young athletes, aged 14-18, from all over the world taking part in nine sports.
The Commonwealth Youth Games has been described as a ‘great stepping stone to success’ and it will be the first taste of an international multi-sport competition for the two athletes selected.
City of Lisburn’s Ben Fisher and Ballymena & Antrim’s Lydia Mills will be hoping to leap their way to success in their respective long jump competitions, with Fisher also named in the 110m hurdles.
“It is a very exciting opportunity for our three athletes,” said Tom Reynolds, who is talent development coach for Athletics NI.
“It is probably the most difficult championships an NI team will ever face in terms of travel and time zone change and I am extremely impressed with the professional way in which all three have prepared for Samoa up to now.”
Fisher’s main target will be the long jump, in which he has a personal best of 7.07m and took medals at the AAA of England U17 Championships and UK School Games last year. The Annie Rose-coached athlete is currently ranked fifth in the UK and is an outside bet for a medal in Samoa.
Ballymena & Antrim long jumper Lydia Mills is following in the footsteps of older sister Joanna, who competed at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. She has worked hard over the winter with coach Seán McMahon and has improved her personal best from 5.42m to 5.80m. She has won silver medals at the Irish Schools’ Championships and Irish U18 Championships, as well as winning the Celtic International at Grangemouth.
Newry AC’s Oisín O’Callaghan was also selected, but had to withdraw on Thursday after suffering a stress fracture. He improved his 800m personal best this year to 1.54.20 that ranks him in the top 15 in the UK. However, his form had dipped in recent weeks and, after running only 2:02 at the Mary Peters' Track last week, he underwent a scan which showed a stress fracture in his foot.
IT WAS a relieved Michael McKillop who stepped off the track at the Lagan Valley Firmus Super Six meeting last week. His time for 800m was a modest 2:07.53, but it was a day the St Malachy’s athlete had been eagerly awaiting after a freak accident at his home last January.
McKillop fell down the stairs, damaging the tendons and ligaments in his foot, which was particularly frustrating when he had struggled with injury for most of 2014 as well.
“I was in socks and slipped, went down and rolled over my ankle,” he explained.
“After 2014 as well, it was a horrible accident to happen. It was very frustrating.”
By spring time, McKillop was ready to start running again. But after less than two weeks of training, he suffered another setback; this time, it was painful shin splints. Now, McKillop is ready to put the last six months of injury and frustration behind him as he looks to defend his 800m and 1,500m titles at the IPC World Championships in Doha.
“It’s been a long six months' slog to get injury free, but it’s looking bright now. All the negativity is in the past and I’m looking forward to trying to win gold in Doha,” McKillop said.
“It just feels so good to be back on the track again.”
However, McKillop realises that, with less than two months to go until the World Championships begin on October 21, he has a race against time to be ready.
“My sessions aren’t still the same standard as they used to be, but I am a perfectionist and I like things to be the way they always were. There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge from here until I hit Doha, but I’ll make sure I’m in the best shape possible to step on that track,” said McKillop.
Ireland’s other Paralympic star, Jason Smyth, also opened his season last week. The Derry City Track Club athlete sprinted to 10.60 and 10.70 timings at an open meeting in north London. Both marks were wind-assisted.
THE Omagh-based Project Africa Athletics has confirmed it will have four athletes competing at the Cardiff International Half Marathon and Dublin City marathon this autumn.
The athletes are from the Solian Athletics Camp in Kenya and will be in Ireland from mid-September for the five weeks leading up to the Dublin City Marathon at the end of October.
“This is an exciting development, with a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes over the last few months to make such an ambitious project a reality,” said Project director Ciarán Collins.
“Because of the success of our first tour this spring, we will be again taking part in a number of local races throughout Ireland and the UK in which to raise the profile and awareness of Project Africa Athletics. We will also be recommencing our Club Endurance workshops for local athletics clubs and our Lessons from Africa schools workshops to raise awareness and educate local athletes and children on east African distance running, their cultures and way of life back in their rural villages of Kenya and Uganda.”
Any club or school interested in this unique initiative should contact Collins on 07774 088034 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a workshop.
SATURDAY’S Belfast Mountain Scenic 10K Run and Walk (12pm) is the first venture of the recently formed RunBelfast group and is organised jointly with Lámh Dhearg GAC.
All proceeds from the event will be invested back into the community with the aim of promoting a healthier lifestyle through physical activity and friendship.
RunBelfast was set up earlier this year by a group of qualified running and fitness coaches. Its aim is to support local novice runners across Belfast and beyond who want to get into the sport for enjoyment and to socialise. The longer term aspiration is to promote healthier and more active lifestyles. The group also organises coaching sessions for beginner and social runners, as well as offering free advice on training on its website.
As well as being a fundraiser, Saturday’s event doubles up as a graduation run for over 50 participants from the RunBelfast 5-to-10K program completing their first ever race over the 6.2 mile distance.
On-line entry for the run remains open until 11pm on Friday through www.runbelfast.net. Parking, changing and showering facilities will be available at the Lámh Dhearg premises, which is just a short distance from the start line.
Refreshments and entertainment will also be available after the event in the Lámh Dhearg clubhouse. For further information, contact Gerard via email at RunBelfast@outlook.com.
RUNNERS are reminded entries close on Sunday (August 31) for the third ASICS Belfast City Half Marathon on September 20.
Over 4,000 people are expected to line up at the starting line in Ormeau Park. The organisers have promised all participants a free goodie bag when they finish the race, including products from various sources as well as a hard-earned medal and finisher t-shirt.
Enter online at www.belfastcityhalfmarathon.net or contact the marathon office directly on 028 90 605933.