“My grandfather was 16 when he went to the 1948 London Olympics with his brother. He always talked about the incredible energy he felt cheering with the crowds. The whole experience left him with a dream of returning one day. When I started to compete in running and win competitions, my grandfather had a new dream. He wanted to return to the Olympics to cheer for his granddaughter. Unfortunately, not every story has a happy ending. He got sick a few weeks before the London 2012 Olympics and although I made great times at the beginning, an injury and the news of my grandfather dying meant I couldn’t qualify. Losing my grandfather was already devastating but not making the Olympics for him made it even worse. In the 1948 Olympics, my grandfather got an Olympic pin that he gave me before I left for America and, ever since, if I go to a competition, I wear it. I was wearing it at the European Championships, the World Championships and then the Olympics in Rio to remind myself that he will always be there for me. I was 35 when I made it to my first Olympics and all of the 22 years before that were about not giving up. There were so many dark days when things were not going right. I thought about giving up so many times but I was lucky to have people around me, like my partner Richard, who always picked me up. I know that if I didn’t have him as my personal coach standing behind me to encourage me I would not be an Olympic runner today. I run every day with him in mind. Richard was always there to believe in me, even when I couldn’t believe in myself and that gives me the strength to continue.”
This interview was highlighted by Irish Life Health sponsors of Athletics Ireland to celebrate the Hidden Heroes who have helped our athletes achieve their goals, whether that be their coach, parents, other family members.