Michael McKillop is one of the all-time legends of Paralympics athletics. The Ballymena runner is a world record holder and has won four gold medal in three different Paralympics. He has set the standard for others to follow in the T37 800 metres and 1500 metres. The 31-year-old arrived in Tokyo fully aware this would likely be his last Paralympics, but he dared to make history.
He competed in the Men's T38 1500 metres final today, and finished 8th. At the finish line, McKillop was disconsolate and was comforted by his fellow competitors.
'We all look up to this guy, he's a true legend' - Four time Paralympic gold medallist Michael McKillop takes the plaudits from competitors and confirms he's competed in last Paralympic Games in an emotional interview after finishing 8th in the T38 1500m final pic.twitter.com/yS5Y6hWKFF
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) September 4, 2021
After the race, a devastated McKillop tried to put the raw emotions he felt into words. He also confirmed it would be his last Paralympics.
"It’s just devastating. When you come to your Paralympic Games, the pinnacle of everyone's career, and to falter like I did is upsetting. It was going to be my last Paralympic Games anyway, but to go out like that, to lose my unbeaten streak in the T37 category is heartbreaking."
"I left my spikes out on the track and walked away because I know there's a time and a place when you have to respect the sport, and when you're not up to the standard, then you have to be honest with yourself."
The interview was interrupted on a few occasions as the other competitors in the race stopped to salute McKillop and pay him tribute.
"He is the GOAT of Paralympic athletics. We all look up to this guy. A true legend," said one finalist.
— Paralympics Ireland (@ParalympicsIRE) September 4, 2021
It's ultimate mark of respect, and while McKillop was clearly emotional after the race, his career on the track was extraordinary.
Even his defeat, Michael McKillop's status as a Paralympics legend became further enhanced. We wish him with whatever comes next.