Athletics ace Nick Griggs has credited his coach Mark Kirk for making his record-breaking mile happen.
The talented teenager ran an astonishing 3.56.40 indoor mile in Dublin to smash the European Under-20 record back in March and put in another fantastic performance to win silver at the European Cross Country Championships earlier this month.
The Tyrone runner, who is widely tipped as a rising star, heaped praise on coach Mark as he was announced Sport NI’s SportMaker Performance Pathway Coach of the Year in a surprise presentation.
Nick said: “The mile is all of Mark’s doing. I wouldn’t have run that time or get the opportunities that I have if it weren’t for him.”
He added: “I think Mark is one of the best coaches in the world and I hope I’m with him for a long time.
“The training that Mark does is second to none.
“He certainly deserves this award as he’s an amazing coach.”
The Cross Country coach was surprised by Sport NI’s SportMaker team at a recent training session at the Mary Peters track in South Belfast.
Tom Reynolds from Athletics NI, who nominated Mark for the prestigious award, said: “Mark is fantastic at bringing the talent through for endurance athletes up to senior performance level.
“Over the years Mark is tried and tested. He can bring an athlete, that shows promise, up through to international level and in some cases to major games level.
“In Northern Ireland we get a lot of very good coaches that may bring one or two athletes through on the journey over a ten-year period. Mark has been very consistent bringing through a number of athletes.
“He has coached at Commonwealth Games level with his daughter Katie and at World Para level with James Hamilton and more recently he had two athletes competing at the World Junior Championships this year including Nick Griggs, who broke the European record for the mile.
“He is truly deserves this award.”
Speaking of his love of athletics and coaching Mark added: “It’s nice to see someone who has a bit of ability but hasn’t fulfilled their potential. Then over the years you see them getting better and better and maybe making international teams and getting something out of their running ability.
“Athletics has been a lifetime passion for me. There is always something to keep you excited and keep you interested. One of the most recent highlights was Nick Griggs running the 3.56 mile in Dublin indoors. The atmosphere in the stadium that night was electric. It was a fantastic achievement and a European record and the second fastest ever in under 20 in the world ever, so that was something special.”
Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown congratulated Mark on his SportMaker coaching award.
She said: “Our SportMaker awards celebrate people who work tirelessly with athletes so they can participate and achieve in sport.
“We want our athletes to be among the best in the world, but this cannot be achieved without the dedication, drive and skills of coaches like Mark.
“Mark has been incredibly successful over many years in the competitive field of coaching. He is skilled at nurturing talented athletes, so they are able to fulfill their sporting potential, often on the world stage.
“Mark is an incredible coach who epitomises what a SportMaker is.”
The Sport NI SportMaker Awards give the sporting community the opportunity to showcase their achievements and give special thanks to coaches, officials and volunteers who work hard behind the scenes. There are 12 award categories recognising achievement at all levels of sports participation, from grassroots through to high performance.