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By Chris Byfield
Paralympic 100m legend Jason Smyth tipped Northern Ireland heptathlete Kate O'Connor to cause an upset at the Commonwealth Games.
The athletics gets under way today at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham with fifty-four gold medals up for grabs.
Notably, Team England is hoping to land a first clean sweep of heptathlon medals, with Holly Mills, Jade O’Dowda and reigning champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson all in contention to make the podium based on pedigree.
However, Smyth, who won gold in the 100m T13 qualification in Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016, said that Northern Ireland star O’Connor could cause an upset and make her way onto the podium.
Smyth said: “I think the wonderful thing for Kate is that she’s young, developing, in good shape, continually progressing and sometimes that’s a nice position to be in because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“I would see Kate most weeks training here at home while I've been away on camps with her. I know she has been in really good form in the last number of weeks preparing into the Games.
“There’s a couple of English girls who scored decent points - obviously, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who everybody knows well.
“She is the current champion and obviously has huge experience - she’s been there and done that and that often can be very telling in major championships.
“The good thing for Kate is that she is in good form and is in decent shape coming into the Games and now the battle is getting the head right and getting your performances and executing your racing and forget about the noise.”
O'Connor is competing in her second Commonwealth Games, having finished eighth in the heptathlon on the Gold Coast in 2018.
A year later the Northern Irish star won silver in the heptathlon at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Borås, Sweden, while she has put together solid performances in the run up to this year’s Commonwealth Games.
Smyth also cited middle-distance runner Ciara Mageean as a potential medallist for Northern Ireland.
The 30-year-old who specialised in the 800m, is the first Irish woman to run sub-two minutes in the event, while she also holds national records over 1500m and a mile.
Smyth said: “The second most likely [to medal] would be Ciara Mageean. I know obviously she’s in good shape. Ciara ran PB’s in the 800 so she’s in good form coming into the Games.
“Her and O'Connor would be the standout two to look out for in terms of winning medals.”
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