Keith O’Connor admits father-coach relationship could have its ups and downs after Commonwealth Games silver for Northern Ireland

The relationship between a daughter and her father is special. For Northern Ireland’s latest sports sensation Kate O’Connor, her father is also her coach.

Even though 21-year-old Kate performed brilliantly in Birmingham’s packed Alexandra Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday to win silver for Team NI in the Commonwealth Games heptathlon, it’s clear that Michael is doing an amazing job in that department.

In parenting, Michael, along with Kate’s mom Valerie, are also clearly doing something right.

Away from athletics, the Newry-born athlete is charming, polite and has a sweet honesty that people will love as she continues to progress in what promises to be a career to watch.

Speaking of the coach-athlete relationship between father and daughter, O’Connor’s openness provides a fascinating insight into their journey together on this path to a podium spot in global competition.

“There were many ups and downs. When it’s good, it’s good, although we can quarrel quite often, ”said Katya.

“It got a lot better as I got older because now I have more independence and we’re not on top of each other as much, but it’s also nice because I know he’s completely in my corner.

“He is always there for me and wants only the best for me, and I never have to question his reasons for this and his reasons for coaching me. It’s a special occasion when my dad is present at all my competitions and we have a great time together.”

In Birmingham, Valerie’s mom, sister Mib, and uncle Peter also cheered her on, while brother Ruairi took a two-day vacation to Canada to watch the drama unfold on TV.

O’Connor, who went to school in Dundalk, excelled in the competition, setting several personal bests, finishing just 144 points behind her idol, former English world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, known throughout the athletics world as KJT.

The Team NI star said: “I said before the championship that I would come for a medal, but it’s one thing to say it and another to do it. It’s different to do it in front of a huge crowd dealing with the nerves and pressure of a major championship, so I’m so proud of myself that I can hold my nerves and show it to KJT and put her under attack. a little pressure was nice.

“If I thought about it a little more, the gold would probably be to win if everything went my way, but at the same time lose to who I call my idol, probably the best person, who can lose.”

Next up for O’Connor are the Europeans later this month, the Worlds next year and some Paris 2024 Olympics. It’s a top goal after he missed the Tokyo Games with a foot injury.

“I want to build on what I’ve done here, try to avoid injury and look ahead to the future, and my goal is 100% Olympics,” said O’Connor, who placed eighth at the 2018 Commonwealth. Games.

“I was upset that I missed last year’s tournament. I was in such good shape and ready to go out and be competitive, but it wasn’t supposed to be.

“I have probably never felt such pain as coming out of the heptathlon in Tenerife and realizing my Olympic bid is complete, but it has inspired me to work hard this year and get back to where I knew I could and it should be.

“Winning the Commonwealth medal will push me forward. I want to go to the Olympics and I want to be competitive.”

One woman who has done so is 1972 pentathlon champion Lady Mary Peters, whom O’Connor spoke to yesterday in downtown Birmingham.

“It was very nice to see Mary Peters. It was the first time I really met her, and I had a long conversation with her, and she is cool, behaves so well and speaks so well, ”said Kate.

O’Connor recalls starting athletics when she was “six or seven years old, basically an 800m runner and a long jumper”.

By the age of 13, at her St. Vincent’s High School in Dundalk, she was a javelin thrower.

“I won the All Ireland Schools in the 800m and the javelin, so it was kind of a strange combination and there was an indication that maybe the all-around might suit me,” added the heptathlete, who was greatly helped and encouraged by athletics his. NI Performance Lead Tom Reynolds and Talent Lead Laura Kerr.

Kerr, Team NI track and field coach at the Games, rightly points out that the silver medal winner is proof that identifying, developing and investing in talented athletes at an early age works.

O’Connor concluded, “I’ve always wanted to inspire young girls to play sports and compete in the all-around. I hope I did.”