Irish hurdler cements place in London 2012 history as Olympic Stadium opens
Friday, 04 May 2012
May 4 - Justine Kinney ensured Ireland will always have a special place in London 2012 history when she became the first athlete to win a race in the Olympic Stadium here today.
The 24-year-old, a psychology student at Loughborough University, claimed the first heat of the women's 400 metres hurdles at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championships, which is doubling as the athletics test event for the Games.
The wet and cold conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of the 4,000 spectators allowed in to watch and they ensured Kinney will remember her moment forever, even though her winning time of 59.79sec was more than two-and-a-half seconds slower than her personal best.
"I know I should probably have eased up a little bit more, but because it was the first race on the track I really wanted to win it," said Kinney, who was born in Birmingham but qualifies for Ireland through her grandparents.
"It's probably not going to bode well for tomorrow [when the final takes place], but I really wanted to go for it and it was so quick.
"The track feels amazing.
"It feels like you could fly down it, it feels wonderful."
It was perhaps fitting too that the first winner in the Stadium should be representing Loughborough, the alma mater of Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012.
"I'm so privileged to run here, I've been looking forward to this so much," said Kinney.
"Normally BUCS is a bit of an opening to the season, good championship practice, but this year it feels like a major championship in itself because we're here.
"All I wanted to do was get here in and be in good shape and really get in medal contention, because the feeling of running down that home straight then, even though it was a heat of BUCS, feels amazing, absolutely brilliant."
Competitors received the full "Olympic" experience as they were called-up 45 minutes before their event and went through exactly the same kind of processes that the likes of Usain Bolt will do in August.
It was all designed to help ensure that the officials are as well prepared for London 2012 as the athletes.
To Charlotte Purdue (pictured below) went the honour of setting the first record on the track in the new Stadium.
The 20-year-old, representing St Mary's University College in Twickenham, stormed to a Championship record in her 5,000m heat with a time of 15min 55.12sec.
"It has been brilliant competing here in such a fantastic venue and knowing that it will be hosting the Olympics later this year," said Purdue.
"I'm pleased with how I ran today but the plan is to go even faster in the final."
Today's events took place before the official opening of the Olympic Stadium tomorrow.
A host of British celebrities and sports stars, including Tottenham-born rapper Chipmunk and five-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave, will celebrate the official opening with a total of 40,000 spectators set to be in attendance.
More than 30 celebrities will be involved in "2,012 Hours to Go: An Evening of Athletics and Entertainment" with impressionist Jon Culshaw, former Spice Girl Melanie C, Twenty Twelve star Hugh Bonneville, former Swimmer Mark Foster and comedian Jack Whitehall to attend the event.
From 7pm onwards, spectators can enjoy the final 90 minutes of the BUCS Visa Outdoor Athletics Championships, plus a series of UK Athletics invitational events featuring some of Britain's best athletes, before presenters Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan take over and lead the celebration.
"This event is very important to us for a number of reasons," said Coe.
"Seeing athletes on the track for the first time will be a special moment for me personally and then welcoming 40,000 people into the Stadium on Saturday night will be a major milestone.
"This crowd will not only be starting their Olympic journey just weeks ahead of the Games, they will also play a vital role in helping us test the venue and earn our licence to operate the Stadium.
"I am very proud of this venue and excited that it is set to stage the biggest sporting event in the world."
Celebrities and athletes will get involved in a series of stunts, games and challenges including zorbing, a bicycle relay challenge and Olympic sports of the past in order to win prizes for members of the audience.
The Military Wives will lead a mass sing-a-long of the national anthem and the final challenge of the evening will see archer and Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown shoot arrows at a series of spinning targets to select a young person from the audience to take part in a once in a lifetime opportunity to open the Olympic Stadium.
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