Commonwealth stars set to compete in Belfast International challenge

Mark English will compete in the 800m event
Mark English will compete in the 800m event

Commonwealth stars plus the majority of the Northern Ireland team will be in action at the Mary Peters Track next Wednesday in the Belfast International Athletics Meeting.

The 1,500 metres is shaping up to be the race of the night with the top two from last year, Collis Birmingham of Australia and Paul Robinson, facing Australian record holder Ryan Gregson.

Gregson, an Olympic semi-finalist in London, clocked 3 minutes 36.17 last month while Robinson a convincing winner for Ireland in the European Team Competition has run 3:36.45.

In this company Glasgow bound Danny Mooney could well reduce his personal best of 3 minutes 42.

Two more of Ireland’s European team winners will be in action in the 400 and 800 metres.

Brian Gregan is in the 400m race when he will face Jason Harvey and Peter Glass, who will be in the Commonwealth 400 hurdles and decathlon respectively, while Mark English from Letterkenny will face a top class 800 line-up.

Ben Reynolds returns to the scene of his 13.49 hurdles record set last year while 3.40 metres pole vaulter Zoe Brown will hope for another best.

Newly crowned English U23 800 metres champion Katie Kirk will be up against Australian Selma Kajan plus all the top Irish specialists in the two-lap event.

The other Northern Ireland Commonwealth performers in action will be Leon Reid and Amy Foster in the 100 metres and Christine McMahon in 400 hurdles, while English star Andy Vernon will be in the 5,000m.

Athletics NI Secretary John Allen said: “The Mary Peters Track will host world class athletics next week and we welcome them to the home of athletics.

“Many of our competitive athletes are finishing their Commonwealth training and it is an opportunity for local fans to cheer them on their way to Glasgow.”

More names are expected to be released shortly for the event, which is organised by Athletics Northern Ireland with support from Belfast City Council.

Meanwhile, former triathlon star John Madden took on a most unusual challenge and in the process beat a record that had stood for over 50 years.

The 49-year-old got on his bicycle at the Post Office beside the Guild Hall in Derry and arrived at the Post Office in Belfast well before his friend Peter Jack, who started at the same time and made the journey by train.

He was able to beat the record of 2 hours 48 set by legendary cyclist Maurice Foster MBE back in 1963 and it was fitting that Maurice was in Bridge Street, Belfast to welcome and congratulate him.

At one stage coming down the Glenshane Pass he was travelling at 52mph and in fact he averaged 26mph for the whole distance as he knocked nearly 11 minutes off the record.

“Obviously I am honoured to take the record from my good friend Maurice Foster who is a legend,” he said.

“I have trained for this for a long time and I am relieved to finally crack the target. I am grateful to everyone who helped me.”