Commonwealth Games: Fab four will kick off Gold Coast campaigns tomorrow (Monday 9th April 2018)…
As Northern Ireland sleeps, our Commonwealth Games team will be going into battle on the Gold Coast of Australia.
Tomorrow, Monday 9th April 2018, will see Emma Mitchell (QUB AC), Ciara Mageean (UCD AC), Jack Agnew (Torque Racing) and Ben Reynolds (North Down AC) all kick off their quest for glory.
Ben will be the first of the familiar faces to compete, when he races in the 110m hurdles Preliminary Rounds at 2:30am GMT.
Ben Reynolds says being monitored by Big Brother can help him escape an early eviction from Gold Coast 2018.
The 27-year-old from Holywood will be making his second appearance at a Commonwealth Games. It’s been a case of keeping it in the family for Reynolds whose father Josh was a dab hand in the same event, holding the Ulster Schools record for over 40 years before it was wrestled away by his son.
But it’s elder sibling Tom, the athlete development lead for Athletics Northern Ireland, who’s been coaching his kid brother all the way to the Gold Coast – eight years after the former decathlete finished ninth at the Commonwealths in Delhi.
And Ben said: “Tom knows me so well. He’s always known me. He knows what I respond best to, whether to increase my training or where we go. He knows the subtleties to recognise. So it helps we’re siblings. We’re thankfully past that stage where we have that kind of friction brothers have.
“I’m 27 and he’s 33. When we were younger, we scrapped a bit. We’re both pretty competitive but because of the age difference, we never competed against one another when we were younger. There was always a lot of encouragement. We both have our strengths which are different. He’s much more built for endurance than me.”
Watching Tom put in the performance of his life in Delhi made me want to aim for the top, Ben admits – even if his ticket to India meant I missed out.
“We both got the qualification standard that year but he got the final spot and I was one position away. But I was pleased for him because he wanted it so much. I remember him blasting through his first event, the 100 metres, and being so impressed that he’d stepped up. And that inspired me, absolutely.”
Meanwhile Jack Agnew admits his first Games experience has been one to remember but the 2017 junior para world championship insists it’s time to get down to business.
The 18-year-old from Belfast is set to begin his Gold Coast outing in the first round of the T54 1500 metres (03:00am GMT), the event in which he landed the global Under-20 title in Switzerland last August, despite undergoing knee injury just a few weeks before.
“This is my first real senior competition and most of my competitors will be much older and a lot more experienced,” he said. “So it’s a great opportunity and a good learning experience for me.”
The teen has been accompanied Down Under by a huge posse of friends and family, all of whom have backed Agnew on since he first took up sport as a junior international for the UK in wheelchair basketball before making the switch to athletics after watching Dave Weir strike gold at the London 2012 Paralympics.
But once the Games are done, daredevil Agnew has a few gets on his to-list to tick off. “I love sharks,” he said. “I spent four weeks in Perth, Western Australia, at the start of the year and was hoping to go shark cage diving but had to pass. But I think it would be fun.”
Emma Mitchell will have the backing of celebrity fan Ronnie O’Sullivan when she goes in Monday’s 10,000 metres final (11:35am GMT).
The trainee teacher from Co. Down will be running in her first major international event here but has a special supporter in the shape of the former world snooker champion who came to cheer her on when she made a stunning debut in the event last year in London.
“A number of people, including my coach and world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, came to watch me race,” the 24-year-old said. “It was my first time racing 10,000m on the track and to achieve the Commonwealth Games qualifying standard and break Teresa Duffy’s 20-year- old Northern Ireland record was incredible.”
Northern Ireland team captain Ciara Mageean opens up in the first round of the 1500 metres at 10:25am GMT with the 2016 European bronze medallist in buoyant mood after her Manchester-based coach Steve Vernon flew out to Australia to oversee her preparations.
“It’s going to be really tough to call because you have some girls coming straight off doing indoors and some, like myself, who have entirely been looking to peak for Commonwealths,” she said. “And it’s going to be good and go out and test myself. The aim is always to make finals and that’s what I want to start with.”
The full schedule for the Athletics NI team is available HERE.
Note: Article compiled with information provided by Athletics NI.