Kate O'Connor determined to make heptathlon grade as Irish records tumble

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Commonwealth Games, comebacks and Olympic dreams

Cool. Calm. Confident.

Three words which aptly describe Dundalk heptathlete Kate O'Connor.

Not every teenager has a clear vision of their career path, but in Kate's case she knows what is next and her current focus is getting the exam grades she needs for university.

Everything this year has been geared towards her 'leaving cert' with training and travelling scaled back to accommodate studying.

But, once that is over, the 18-year-old's focus will be on the European Junior Championships in Sweden.

"Hopefully I will do well there. Winning a medal would be amazing, but we'll just see how it goes."

Kate O'Connor in action at the Commonwealth Games in Australia
O'Connor was ruled out of the World Juniors last summer after competing at the Commonwealth Games

'Competing against idols'

O'Connor is no stranger to the big stage, having represented Northern Ireland at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, an experience she believes will stand her in good stead in future competitions.

Finishing eighth overall, she admits the event did not go the way that she wanted, but the experience of competing at a high level provided a positive learning experience.

"I was competing against some girls who were my idols, who I had watched on TV," said O'Connor.

"Now I have competed against them in front of the crowds on the Gold Coast. That was an invaluable experience which I couldn't have gained anywhere else, and it will benefit me in the future."

After the Commonwealth Games, Kate missed out on the World Junior Championships because of injury, but the disappointment gave her the appetite to come back stronger.

"I wanted to show everybody that it wasn't the end of me," she added.

O'Connor's return saw her set a series of personal bests in the javelin, shot put and 100m hurdles, as she sent Irish records tumbling, culminating in breaking two national records in one day at the Multistars Event in Lana, Italy.

So what pleased her most - the Irish heptathlon record or breaking her own coach's record?

The teenager's coach Laura Kerr had held the Northern Ireland javelin record for 16 years, before O'Connor beat it by eight centimetres with the new record now standing at 49.31m.

"Taking Laura's record was pretty good, I've been aiming for that for quite a while," answers the teenager.

Jessica Ennis in action at London 2012
O'Connor says London 2012 Olympic champion Jessica Ennis is her idol

'Olympics are a dream'

But O'Connor is not content with just breaking the record as her goal is to break the 50m mark.

As she goes through her training routine in the shadow of the statue of Olympic gold medallist pentathlete Mary Peters, Kate recalls being inspired by watching her hero Jessica Ennis in action at the London Olympics in 2012.

So are the Olympics Games a possibility?

"That is a dream - every athlete's goal is to get to the Olympics, but to win a medal at the Games? Well, I would be over the moon. "

Heptathlete O'Connor along with sprinter Leon Reid and Northern Ireland's 2018 Commonwealth Games athletics captain Ciara Mageean are among the names set to compete at this year's Belfast International Track and Field meet at the Mary Peters Track on 1 August.

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