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Smyth, who won gold in the 100m T13 qualifiers in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, says Northern Ireland star O’Connor could cause an upset and make it onto the podium



<p>Gold medalist Jason Smyth of Team Ireland celebrates on the podium of the men’s 100m T13 final on Day 5 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on August 29, 2021.</p><div data-ad-id=
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Gold medalist Jason Smyth of Team Ireland celebrates on the podium of the men’s 100m T13 final on Day 5 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on August 29, 2021.

Paralympic 100m legend Jason Smyth tipped Northern Ireland heptathlete Kate O’Connor to cause a stir at the Commonwealth Games.

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Athletics begins today at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham with 54 gold medals to their name.

Team England in particular are hoping to land a first clean heptathlon medal win, with Holly Mills, Jade O’Dowda and reigning champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson all fighting for the podium based on pedigree.

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But Smyth, who won gold in the 100m T13 qualifiers in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, said Northern Ireland star O’Connor could cause an upset and make it onto the podium.

Smyth said: “I think the wonderful thing about Kate is that she’s young, developing, she’s in good shape and she’s always evolving and sometimes that’s a beautiful position because you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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“I’ve seen Kate train here at home most weeks while I was with her at the camps. I know she’s been in really good shape for the last few weeks of preparation for the games.

“There are a couple of English women who have scored decent points – of course Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who everyone knows well.

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“She’s the current champion and obviously has huge experience – she’s been there and done that and that can often be very telling at big championships.

“The good thing for Kate is that she’s in good shape and she’s in decent shape when she gets to the games and now it’s all about getting your head right and getting your performance and doing your races and shutting down the noise forget.”

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O’Connor is attending her second Commonwealth Games after finishing eighth in the 2018 Gold Coast Heptathlon.

A year later, the Northern Irishwoman won silver in the heptathlon at the U20 European Athletics Championships in Borås, Sweden, while putting in solid performances ahead of that year’s Commonwealth Games.

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Smyth also named middle-distance runner Ciara Mageean as a potential medalist for Northern Ireland.

The 30-year-old, who specializes in the 800m, is the first Irish woman to run under two minutes in the event, while she also holds national records in the 1500m and a mile.

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Smyth said: “The second most likely [to medal] would be Ciara Mageean. I know she’s obviously in good shape. Ciara ran PBs in the 800’s so she’s in good shape coming to the games.

“You and O’Connor would be the standout two to look out for when it comes to winning medals.”

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