Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Day 11: Michael McKillop finishes eighth in 1,500m final

Patrick O’Leary narrowly misses out on medal; Mary Fitzgerald sixth in the F40 shot put

Ireland’s Michael McKillop is consoled after the race by Louis Radius of France. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland’s Michael McKillop is consoled after the race by Louis Radius of France. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 
  • Athletics: Michael McKillop finishes eighth in the T37/38 1,500m final. Mary Fitzgerald finishes in sixth place in the F40 shot put.
  • Canoeing: Patrick O’Leary finishes fifth in the VL3 final after a thrilling finish.
  • Shooting: Philip Eaglesham ends his Games with a 15th place finish in the R9 mixed 50m rifle prone.

Athetics

It wasn't to be for Irish Paralympic legend Michael McKillop as the four-time Paralympic gold medallist finished in eighth position in the T37/38 1,500m final, clocking a time of 4:27.69 in a race in which he also lost his longstanding T37 record.

Canada's Nate Riech won the gold medal with a new Paralympic record time of 3:58.92. Algeria's Abdelkrim Krai won silver with Australia's Deon Keznie taking the bronze.

“I had to follow the pack and set myself up to be in the mix and I did that but then I just had literally nothing in my legs after 600m and they just got away further and further," explained the 31 year-old McKillop, after his phenomenal 13-year unbeaten Paralympic streak was finally brought to an end.

“I feel I’ve let my dad down. This is his last year and I wanted to give him something back. I know he’s got a lot out of it already but, after my surgery and getting through all that stuff, he got me back in the shape that I was going to be competitive and that’s why I came here.

“To now not be competitive in races like this just shows you that it’s moved on. It’s disappointing not having my category anymore but that’s how it is. Everyone has to deal with it.”

Mary Fitzgerald finished in sixth place in the F40 shot put competition in the pouring rain at the Olympic stadium. She started with a throw of 7.25m and gradually improved until the fourth round where, what looked like a good throw approaching the 8m mark was ruled out.

Mary Fitzgerald during the F40 women’s shot put final at the Olympic Stadium. Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Mary Fitzgerald during the F40 women’s shot put final at the Olympic Stadium. Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

After an inquiry the reason given was that some tape from her shoe had touched the foul board. Fitzgerald recovered by her final throw to record her best of the day with 7.79m. The winner of the competition was Renata Sliwinska from Poland who dominated throughout.

Speaking afterwards Fitzgerald said: “There were tricky conditions out there, the rain definitely effects the shot put but I’m not going to use it as the excuse. I would have liked to have thrown closer to my PB of 8.12 but 7.79 isn’t miles off.

“I got it in the last round so that is probably when I started to get settled with the conditions in terms of challenging the board more but yeah look, like somebody said, I can call myself a Paralympian now and that is a huge honour.

“It’s nice to add it to the CV, I’m a little disappointed but I know there’s more to come in the future and I know this is only the beginning.”

Canoeing

In a busy morning on the penultimate day of competition for Team Ireland at the Paralympic Games there was action at the shooting range, the Olympic Stadium and on the water.

Ireland’s Patrick O’Leary finished fifth after a blanket finish in the final of the new VL3 Va’a canoe event.

Australia’s Chris McGrath took gold comfortably in 50:537. But less than one second separated the next four men across the line and Britain’s Stuart Wood took bronze with 52.760, less than two 10ths of a second faster than O’Leary’s 52.910.

The 48-year-old NUIG chemistry lecturer, who is reigning European champion in the new discipline, qualified for his second Paralympic canoeing final by nicking third in his semi-final in a time of 51:939.

Patrick O’Leary of Ireland competing in the men’s VL3 200m sprint A final at the Sea Forest Waterway. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Patrick O’Leary of Ireland competing in the men’s VL3 200m sprint A final at the Sea Forest Waterway. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

“It feels fabulous to have finished fifth,” he said after the race. “The important thing for me is to get out of me what I have in me and I really don’t think I had another 10th of a second in me.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect race but on the day it was as good as I had in me. If there are four guys in the world better than me that’s fine, I’ll take that. I knew the shape I was in when I came out here and that’s reflected in my performances, so it’s been a really wonderful success for me.

“This competition has also been a great advertisement for para-canoe. All the races have been really tight and you see the spirit of it as well. It’s been fabulous. You just get out there and enjoy it. I smile every time I get on the water and before each race to remind myself that this is what I enjoy.

“Paralympic sport is fabulous. It’s not for everyone, it’s elite sport but it’s useful to show to people that canoeing is a really accessible sport. You don’t have to do it at a competitive level. Anybody who likes water, just go down to your local canoe club and say ‘Pat says you can get me in a boat’ and they will.”

Shooting

Philip Eaglesham competed in the last of his three events, the R9 mixed 50m rifle prone. Despite a strong opening of 103.6 in his first round he was left to rue two rounds in a row where he shot 102. He never fully regained his form and finished in 15th place with a score of 618.3 which meant he missed out on progressing to the last eight in his favoured event.

Reflecting on his experience in Tokyo, Eaglesham thanked his family and supporters at home:

“They’ll always support me no matter what and are always proud no matter what so I’m just grateful of everything they’ve done in the last five years and had to put up with and everything we’ve spent. That sort of come out of their budget too so I’m extremely grateful to them for everything they do.

“I’m also extremely grateful to Target Shooting Ireland and the support that they provide in the background. Without all these people I wouldn’t be here so I’m extremely grateful.”

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