Category: Archive

For Sonia, an Olympics to remember

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

DUBLIN – "I remember nothing from Atlanta, I’ll remember everything from Sydney." Those were the words of Sonia O’Sullivan as she reviewed her performances at the recent Olympic Games.

A magnificent silver medal in the 5,000 meters final was followed by a sixth place in the 10,000, and O’Sullivan’s standing in Ireland’s track and field history was assured.

There was genuine optimism following the 5,000 that she could go one better in the 10k, but not even a personal best and Irish national record of 30:53.37 was good enough to put O’Sullivan on the podium as Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu set a scorching pace.

O’Sullivan was soon tailed off as the leading pack of five runners battled it out to the line with Tulu repeating her gold medal triumph of 1992. Unlike Atlanta, where O’Sullivan stepped off the track once she was out of contention, Ireland’s first-ever female runner to win an Olympic medal raced on to the finish.

"I kept thinking I better get something out of this for myself," O’Sullivan said. "I felt I owed it to myself and to my coach, Alan Storey, to put in a decent effort. And then there were the fans, all that shouting for me even though I wasn’t going to win the race from a long way out.

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"If I didn’t have a silver medal I wouldn’t be smiling right now. I was so glad I could go out there, stand on the podium and get a medal. It’s a dream I’ve had for such a long time. I’d have loved if it had been gold, but it wasn’t to be and I’ll have to come back again."

Yet, it seems unlikely that O’Sullivan will go on to compete at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. In the short term, she goes in the Grand Prix final in Doha, Qatar, this week, and returns to Ireland for a five-mile road race in Loughrea, Co. Galway, on Oct. 15.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s sports minister, Jim McDaid, has hit out at the poor performance of Ireland’s competitors during the Sydney Games. O’Sullivan’s silver was the only medal won by the nation, putting Ireland on par with Vietnam and Uruguay and far behind the U.S.’s world-leading 97.

While admitting that it was too early "to start pointing fingers," McDaid said there were obvious questions to be asked over the performance of the team, especially as so much public money had been spent preparing the athletes.

"There was no shortage of personal commitment and national pride out there, but they didn’t perform," McDaid said.

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