Ulster Runner Wins Paralympic Gold

Jordanstown-based runner Michael McKillop wins gold at the Paralympics in Beijing

Michael McKillop, a member of staff at the University of Ulster's Jordanstown Sports Centre, has won gold at the Paralympics in Beijing.

McKillop, who is 18 years old, strode through to win the 800 metres in a new Paralympic record time of 1 minute 59.39 seconds, shaving 2.74 seconds off the record he set at the 2006 World Championships. 

The Glengormley athlete, who has cerebral palsy, finished two and a half seconds ahead of the rest of the field in front of a capacity crowd at the Bird’s Nest Stadium and claimed Ireland’s first gold medal of the games.

'I knew what I had to do. My coach, my dad, got it all right. He told me to wait until 300 to go and if anybody went, to cover their move but to ideally go with 210 or 220 to go. I did that and blew the field away,' McKillop told BBC Sport

The athlete may have been nervous before the final, 'but then I just decided to forget about it. All I could do was to try and win and that's what I did'.

McKillop works as a relief assistant at the Sports Centre, and has made good use of his time at UU, passing on his expert knowledge to all who use the Wellness Fitness Suite.

Not only has McKillop worked at the campus but he has also used its world-class facilities to help him on his way to gold. Before leaving for Beijing, the St Malachy’s Athletics Club star used the acclimatisation chamber - the only one of its kind in Ireland - at the Jordanstown campus to prepare for the humid conditions he faced in the Chinese capital.

Ulster’s sport and recreation manager Ian O’Neill was full of praise for the Paralympian. 

'Everyone at the University is delighted with Michael’s win. He is a superstar. To win gold in the 2006 World Championships in the Netherlands at the age of 16 and then to go on to win gold at the Paralympics in Beijing is just a phenomenal achievement for such a young athlete.

'He has worked hard for this, and that’s something we have seen first hand here at Jordanstown where Michael has been in and out of the acclimatisation chamber on a weekly basis. His hard work as paid off and all at Ulster are proud of his achievements.'

With the Jordanstown campus designated a pre-Olympic and Paralympic training camp for the 2012 London Games, the young runner will undoubtedly still be at the campus improving all the time before he races to retain his title in four years time.

McKillop is also a member of the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland, which has its base at the University’s High Performance Centre. 

Click here to watch Michael McKillop storm to Paralympic glory.