Raheny Shamrock’s sprint star Orla Comerford’s won double bronze medals at the Para Athletic European Championships in Berlin over the past week.
The speedster proved one of the highlights of a highly successful championships for the Irish team who came home with at nine medals.
Comerford took the T13 100 metre medal, edging out German athlete Janne Sophie Engeleite by the tiny margin of just 0.01 seconds in clocking an impressive time of 12.82 seconds.
Comerford was topped by Leilia Adzhametova of the Ukraine and Portugal’s Carolina Duarte in taking her bronze, with the race finishing with the three athletes in identical positions in the 200 metres.
Comerford made her international debut at the Rio Paralympics as an 18-year-old, admitting at the time that she had never even considered that she might represent Ireland six months earlier. Since her Rio experience, she’s developed into one of Ireland’s strongest paralympic hopes.
The Dublin athlete was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease as a young teenager, a life changing disorder that has caused serious deterioration in her eyesight and doesn’t have a known cure.
She comes from a Howth family that has always been extremely sports-loving. She has been a member of Raheny Shamrocks since she was just six years old, continuing to run after her eye problems kicked in.
“It’s really exciting to get a bronze. It’s my first Europeans, actually, and it’s a great start,” Comerford said after the 200 metre win. “Hopefully I can continue this into the next few years.
“I tend to be better at the 100 metres, I have quite a few more years training for that under my belt,” she continued, having stepped up to the 200 metres relatively recently.
“Over the last few years, it’s been hard to get in the endurance stuff that I really need for the 200 and it showed I think. I had a good start and I did tie up quite a lot in the last 100.”
The 100 ultimately proved to be a dip for the line in grabbing Comerford’s second bronze.
The medals mark Comerford’s first major adult podium successes and, at the age of 20, show her potential to go right to the top of the sport at world as well as European level.
Comerford joins star Derry native Jason Smyth, who’s now unbeaten at international level since 2005, in medaling twice at the championship.
Smyth’s focus is also the sprint distances in the men’s version of Comerford’s T13 category. He suffers from the same degenerative eye condition and has been dubbed “the fastest paralympian on the planet”.