Kevin Seaward brought a fine Commonwealth Games to a close for Northern Ireland’s athletics team with fourth place in the men’s marathon in Gold Coast on Sunday.
In hot conditions, the 33-year-old from Belfast made up ground in the closing stages to deliver the finest distance running performance from a Northern Irish athlete in Games history with a time of 2:19:54, just 18 seconds off the bronze claimed by Scotland’s Robbie Simpson.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said the Loughborough-based assistant head teacher.
“I set out with a target of finishing in the top 10 and kind of predicted that I’d probably need to run around 2:20 for that to happen so I just looked into a rhythm early on and just kept working through.
“Probably with about a km to go, somebody said ‘there’s a medal there.
“I had no idea, I just thought they were just being really nice trying to tee me up with a bit of motivation.
“Robbie worked hard to get himself in that position and he did really well.”
The race was won by Australia’s Michael Shelley who repeated his gold medal of Glasgow 2014 with Munyo Mutai of Uganda landing silver.
It concluded a Games in which Leon Reid’s 200 metres bronze medal was the highlight among a number of strong performances from the Northern Ireland’s track and field team, including five top-eight finishes and a NI record for Emma Mitchell in the 10,000m final.
“We had a fantastic holding camp,” said team captain Ciara Mageean.
“The team gelled so well together and got behind one another,
“You have your individual programme and you go into selfish mode but I think the team has done fantastically.
“You see some of our young athletes who did brilliantly. Leon did amazing. I think there’s more to come from so many people. And it’s been a great Games.”
Athletics Northern Ireland’s director of coaching Jackie Newton believes there is a bright future for the sport with the foundations being laid at grassroots level as well as supporting elite athletes.
She said: “Our vision was to get our athletes here in their best shape to express themselves physically on the track and field and that nothing would deter them from their preparations.
“The athletes and their coaches fully committed themselves to the task in hand and never lost sight of their performance goals.
“Every one has shown strength of character - performing with confidence and battling for positions.
“Some are a little disappointed with their own result but when we look at the manner in which they competed and truly went for it we can have no regrets.
“Now, with Leon’s bronze medal, another four top eights and every athlete outperforming their ranking from the time of selection, we look forward to the next four years when we aim to convert all top 10 positions to medals.
“This is a young team and we look forward to supporting them towards this future goal.”