European Masters Athletics Championships 2017:
Northern Ireland’s Kelly Neely (City of Lisburn AC), a former Masters World (800m) Champion, returned to the international stage over the weekend and secured a silver medal at the European Masters Athletics Championships in Denmark.
The two times Commonwealth Games athlete has made a welcome return to competition following the birth of her second child (Hannah) just 16 weeks ago. Up against top quality opposition in the Vet35 category, Kelly recorded 2:12.58 for 2nd place. The race was won by 35 year old Polish athlete Aneta Kaczmarek in 2:09.86 (1st place).
Speaking to www.nirunning.co.uk after the race, Kelly explained, “I had 16 weeks from the birth (of Hannah) until the final and I felt this was adequate enough time to allow me to recover from pregnancy and get back into training safely with no problems and/or setbacks along the back and enough time for me to be competitive and bring home a medal.”
As a former World Masters Champion, it would be expected that there would be a certain amount of pressure on Kelly going into the Championships. However, the experienced athlete and coach dealt with that well. She explained, “I didn’t feel any pressure on the day, I was very nervous but that would be normal for me as with any athlete. I tried to draw on past experiences to settle the nerves and reminded myself that my priorities had changed – it is no longer life or death and regardless of the outcome I had two beautiful baby girls waiting for me and home and a very supportive husband. My goal for the race was to enjoy the experience, run the best race I could and finish on the podium.”
The City of Lisburn AC star achieved her goal, adding another impressive achievement to her already outstanding running CV. Kelly also had a big interest in the Championships from a coaching perspective, with her athlete, Joy McAleer (City of Lisburn AC) also competing. Joy reached the Vet55 800m final, taking 10th place in 2:55.56.
There were a number of other notable performances by local athletes – Northern Ireland Masters XC international Tracey Atkinson (Albertville Harriers) picked up a gold medal for Great Britain & Northern Ireland in the Vet35 Half Marathon team competition. Tracey recorded 1:29:28 for 12th place.
Scotland based NI lady Lisa Finlay (Dumries RC) impressed in both the Vet45 half marathon and 5,000m. In the 13.1 mile event, Lisa ran 1:24:33 for 4th place. In the 5,000m, she clocked an excellent 18:24.83 for 5th place.
Derry Track Club’s Cathal McLaughlin narrowly missed a podium place in the Vet50 1500m, taking 4th place in 4:19.90. Cathal was also in competition over 800m, where he clocked 2:09.12 for 8th place. Mid Ulster AC’s Patrick Forbes (Vet75) was also close to claiming a medal, finishing in 4th place in the 100m with a time of 14.78.
City of Derry AC’s Eoghan Furey claimed a top ten finish in the fiercely competitive Vet40 800m; Eoghan ran 2:01.28 for 8th place in the final. Donna Evans (Finn Valley AC) enjoyed a busy weekend – she secured 5th place in the Vet50 category of the 10,000m in 43:33.32 and 7th place in the 4k cross country, crossing the line in 14:56. Donna also recorded 1:33:28 in the half marathon associated to the Championships.
Full results for the European Masters Athletics Championships are available HERE.