Kate O’Connor admitted she needed to overcome crippling nerves to claim Commonwealth Games heptathlon silver.
O’Connor had been in among the medals for the entire competition but slipped out of the podium places after she could only manage a best effort of 5.82m in the long jump.
But the 21-year-old, who grew up in Dundalk, came out for last night’s concluding two events in determined mood.
She unleashed a huge 51.14m javelin throw to move into second ahead of the concluding 800m and then produced a gutsy run over two laps to claim silver at a rocking and raucous Alexander Stadium.
Former world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson took gold, but O’Connor was clear as the best of the rest with a season’s best 6233 points, while England’s Jade O’Dowda completed the podium.
“I’m buzzing,” she said.
“Yesterday I knew I’d put myself in a good position but it’s one thing putting yourself in position, another to come out and deliver. I did the job, so I’m happy.
“I knew I’d have to do a good long jump; it didn’t really come together but I managed to put a solid jump in. In that cool room waiting for javelin, I’ve never felt so nervous. I knew I’d have to throw over 50m and hope the other girls didn’t put in a good performance. Thankfully, I managed to put in a good throw. I had to go out and finish the job in the 800m.
“That last 300 metres I was swimming the whole way around, but it was good Kat came around when she did, it gave me someone to follow. I had enough in the tank to not let Jade overtake me.”
This summer, Team Northern Ireland, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will compromise of over 100 athletes, all vying for medal success.
After Northern Ireland’s best day of the Games so far, O’Connor believes there is more to come in the final five days of competition.
She added: “It’s class. We’re such a small country and for me to come out and deliver in such a high-class field in front of such a big crowd, I’m so proud and thankful to all my coaches at home. It’s been a tough couple of years, I’ve had a lot of injuries, but I’ve managed to pull it together when it matters.”
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