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Athletics Ireland/Twitter Akpe-Moses after her win.
# Sprint star
18 for 18: Gina Akpe-Moses is set to bring Irish sprinting into the fast lane
The U20 European champion has her sights on Tokyo 2020.

Over the next 10 days, our 18 for 18 series will look at 18 Irish athletes aged 18 or younger set for a big 2018. You can read the rest of the series here

IT’S ONE OF the Irish sports pictures of the year, Gina Akpe-Moses draped in a tricolour beaming from ear-to-ear after winning the women’s 100m at the European U20 Championships in Italy.

In doing so, she became the first Irish athlete to win a gold medal at the championships in a dozen years.

The 18-year-old moved to Ireland from Nigeria at the age of three and lived here until 2014 when her family relocated to Birmingham.

She was eight the first time she took part in a proper sprint, the youngest girl competing in the U10 100m at the Community Games. She finished second in her heat and her semi-final and, unhappy with the grass track, opted to run the final in her bare feet.

She won, and a love for sprinting was born.

When she joined St Gerard’s Athletic Club in Louth, her coach, Michael O’Connor, knew he was dealing with a special talent.

“Straight away you just knew that she had the ability. We would have all said at some point, that she was going to do something very, very special and she’s starting to show the ability that she has now.

“The speed. She was also a really good long jumper. You could just see the natural turnover. She certainly had loads of natural ability, ” he told LMFM at the time.

Given her obvious talent, it should come as no surprise that British Athletics chiefs have been keeping a close eye of Akpe-Moses. However, in the wake of her success at the Euros, she said:

I think hearing the national anthem that made me so happy. You hardly ever hear the Irish national anthem. So when you do hear it you think I’ve actually done something for the country. I couldn’t stop smiling.”

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The target for Akpe-Moses is Tokyo 2020, given her status as the best young sprinter in Europe, few would back against her reaching a final and, after that, who knows.

Still, The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):


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