Belfast International meeting returns to athletics calendar

Kerry O'Flaherty at the launch of the Belfast International on Tuesday with Athletics NI president Gary Keenan, Beechmount Harriers official Eamonn Christie, Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Arder Carson and Irish Milers Club co-founder Brendan Hackett
Rio Olympics-bound Kerry O'Flaherty helped launch the Belfast International at City Hall on Tuesday

The Belfast International athletics meeting will return to the calendar in May in a meeting being co-staged by Athletics Northern Ireland, the Irish Milers Club and Beechmount Harriers.

The event is a follow on from last May's meeting jointly staged by the Irish Milers Club and Beechmount.

"We're delighted that Athletics NI have come on board this year," says organiser Eamonn Christie.

"The meet will be on 7 May and we hope to have several Olympic qualifiers."

Christie added:"Athletics Northern Ireland will bring their expertise of having put on many other major athletics events and that should make our event even more successful.

Christine McMahon says Olympic qualification would be a "real bonus"

"We'd be quite hopeful that some if not all our the athletes from Northern Ireland who have got Olympic qualifying standards will come and compete at the Mary Peters Tracks, which is renowned as being one of the fastest tracks in Europe."

The Belfast International meeting returned to the redeveloped Mary Peters Track in 2013 when Ben Reynolds produced the stand-out performance by setting a new Northern Ireland 110m hurdles record of 13.49.

The event was also staged in 2014 but had to be cancelled last year as the Beechmount and IMC initiative became the main meeting on the Northern Ireland scene.

However, the two meetings have now effectively merged into one as the respective organisers opt to pool their resources.

Rio-qualified Kerry O'Flaherty was one of the athletes who attended Tuesday's launch hosted at City Hall by Belfast Lord Mayor Arder Carson.

McMullen faces tough qualifying tasks

County Derry Long jumper Adam McMullen was also at the event launch at the Lord Mayor's parlour along with other Irish international athletes Christine McMahon and Emma Mitchell.

With the Olympic long jump standard a penal 8.15m, McMullan, who set his personal best of 7.80m last year, will face a massive task to put himself into contention for Rio selection.

"It's even tougher for the World Indoors in March with the standard 8.18m," said Newbridge man McMullen ruefully on Tuesday.

"But a jump of 8.04m was good enough to secure a place under the new quota system at last year's world outdoors in Beijing which is a more realistic distance for me.

"I opened my season with a 7.70 a couple of weeks back which was encouraging.

"Training has been going very well under the supervision of my coach Alan Kennedy and I will just keep working hard and hope that the competitions go well and that I can pull out some big jumps."

400m hurdler McMahon's main target for the season is secure a return trip to the European Championships in July after reaching the semi-finals in Zurich two years ago.

Adam McMullen in action at last year's World University Games in South Korea
Long jumper Adam McMullen opened his season earlier this month with a leap of 7.70m

Like McMullen, Olympic qualification will be a tall order for the Ballymena & Antrim athlete as her personal best of 56.97 set in 2014 is .77 outside the Rio standard.

However, the European standard of 57.90 should be well within McMahon's compass.

Banbridge athlete Mitchell's target is also European Championship qualification as she aims to improve her current 1500m personal best of 4:20 to the Amsterdam mark of 4:12.00.

In terms of the Belfast International meeting, organisers are hoping to attract teams from England, Scotland and Wales in addition to Northern Ireland and Ireland selects plus squads from both the British Milers Club and Irish Milers Clubs.

"This is a fantastic event for everyone involved and provides an opportunity to showcase one of the country's top athletics arenas," said Athletics Northern Ireland general secretary John Allen.

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