Rice College student Con Doherty marked himself out as a future triathlon star on the world stage last Sunday when he claimed the bronze medal at the World Championship Series Finals event at the ITU Junior Championship in Auckland, New Zealand. The 17-year-old was just pipped at the line by Simon Viain from France for second place, he was also just 14 seconds behind the winner Wian Sullwald from South Africa. Doherty was given a hero’s welcome home on Tuesday afternoon in Westport where hundreds of people including huge number of students turned out to greet the bronze medalist at the Octagon in the town.
Doherty himself took the applause and thanked all for coming out to welcome him home and told the waiting crowd: “I’m still in shock, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I can’t believe it yet, it’s kinda unbelievable. The only thing is maybe I could have beaten that French boy, but next year maybe.”
His father John said that this result was a victory for everyone who has been involved in a number of clubs in the town through the years and it showed all the young people who were there on Tuesday, they could achieve whatever they wanted. “This is a local success, with all the days spent outside the shop doors collecting money for the athletics, club the cycling club, the swimming club. Without the money and help raised to go to those clubs and the people in these clubs, none of this would have happened. It shows the children here, no dream is to big. If you want something work towards it and work hard for it, it’s achievable.”
In Sunday’s event, Doherty finished in around the middle of the pack after the 750m swim. But on the bike he really pushed himself into contention over the four 20k laps. Doherty has been assisted in his cycling training by former Olympian and professional cyclist David O’Loughlin who was on hand on Tuesday to welcome Doherty back to Westport. On the final leg the 5k run Doherty pushed his challengers all the way, coming just 14 seconds behind the winner and just a stride off second place. Doherty came second in a competition for 16 to 19 year olds and still has two years left at this level, so over the next few years he will be going for gold.
Local TD and Minister for State for Sport and Tourism, Michael Ring TD congratulated him by saying: “This is Ireland’s first ever medal at the Junior World Triathlon Championships and a tremendous breakthrough for our current national champion who just narrowly missed out on the sprint for silver. Illustrating sheer grit, tenacity and determination, Con overcame cold, wet and slippery conditions to achieve a slight lead on the cycling leg before commencing the sprint. Unfortunately France’s Simon Viain caught Con in the final kilometre. Con Doherty has made his family, the town of Westport, the county of Mayo and the rest of Ireland extremely proud with this outstanding achievement. I have no doubt this is just the first of many international medals to come for the very talented Mr Doherty.”