20 year old Kate O’Connor smashed her own national heptathlon record with an exceptional 6,297 points and a 2nd place performance at the Multistars World Athletics Combined Events Challenge in Italy at the weekend.
In the Newry born’s first competitive outing in nearly 2 years she narrowly missed out on the top spot by only 7 points, Spain’s Maria Vicente taking home the accolade instead.
Competing against 14 of the world’s highest calibre athletes, O’Connor finished up just 123 points off automatic Olympic qualification.
With the top 24 to take part in Tokyo, this excursion holds her in good stead for the summer Games, pushing her into 18th position in the rankings with up to three events left to book her spot.
The event which includes hurdles, high jump, shotput, a 200m run, long jump and an 800m run is known for its versatility and the athletes ability to execute all aspects with proficiency, something which O’Connor has worked on over the pandemic period.
“[The break] let me improve my hurdles which was kind of a downfall in my Heptathlon. It’s where a lot of people would gain a lot of points on me and I’ve managed now to pull that down to where I’m actually competitive and not letting people get too far in front” she told Off The Ball on Tuesday.
Currently living in Dundalk and attending online college with Sheffield Hallam University, O’Connor is acclimatised to record breaking at this stage, having become the first Irish athlete to claim a medal at a major heptathlon championship in 2019 and also was the national pioneer to cross the 6000 point barrier.
Back training with her dad once again, the possibility of an Olympic dream is creeping ever closer to becoming a reality.
When asked about the possibility she said “I’ve got a few more heps to do to try and consolidate my place but yeah hopefully! Fingers crossed I’ll be on the plane to Tokyo.”
“I can’t really believe that those words are coming out of my mouth now!” she smiled.
Expected to take part in one to two of the meetings at Götzis, Arona and the National Championships, the Dundalk athlete is optimistic for the future, as are onlookers who hope to see her at the Olympics.
Just to put this into context as it didn't get half the coverage it deserves:
O'Connor's points total yesterday would have placed her 6th, 4th, 12th, 14th & 14th at the last 5 Olympics. At the last 5 World Champs: 11th, 7th, 12th, 9th, 8th.
And she's only 20. https://t.co/28qMKlPUAC
— Cathal Dennehy (@Cathal_Dennehy) April 26, 2021