Here we go; another continent another Olympic Games. It’s Rio 2016.Just where to begin a series of articles I will engage occasionally over next few weeks?
My thoughts in recent weeks have been about where this interest in athletics came from in me. Was it a race in the school yard at Sessiaghoneill National School, which I can so many years later vividly recall or watching a black and white TV as the Olympics unfolded in Rome in 1960?[adrotate group=”38″]There, John Lawlor, a hammer thrower, chased a medal that wasn’t to be. He came fourth in the end and I remember my focus on him among dozens of others at boarding school St Columb’s in Derry.This was a daily treat from school authorities and anyone who was ever in that boarding school environment would understand the treat it was. It really was the arrival of a young priest on the staff at same college, who introduced athletics, which was an opportunity I took and basically have run with ever since.Skipping ahead, I found myself boarding a plane to Sydney 2000 Olympics being a dream come true – it was a dream that didn’t exist all those years previously but a period as National Junior Under-20 manager and as Team Leader of European Cup had put me in the frame so up and away I went.
I was young, passionate and definitely enthusiastic but by then I was dealing with serious internal goings on; behind the scenes things. Indeed, some of it was to make national news – things like selections and what gear would we wear.Yes, it was stressful and sometimes unnecessary and foolish but such is life and all these experiences prepared me for life outside the remit of dealing with the routine key stuff – the athlete who, for me, should always be the real story always .I felt I would do that job and leave it at that once it was over at Sydney 2000. The plan was to return to my greatest athletic love – my local Finn Valley AC. But by now it seems as though I stating the obvious in 2016, it didn’t roll out like that.So along came Athens four years later and there I am in a training camp in Cyprus and things rolled on to pre-Beijing training camp in Japan before going onto the Games in China, 2008.
I was still there for the Games in London in 2012. I had spent two periods of my life studying there in London at St Mary’s, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. I was back at that location again, which was the site of our training base and was chuffed to bits as this place had given me a great education years earlier.Now, as I write this, it’s on a Sunday evening in late July and I am in a city in Brazil for a training camp called Uberlandia with a population 850,000 and I will head to Rio in the next week,We arrived after a 30-hour journey on Friday after leaving the family early on Thursday. We have settled in well and hit the track yesterday in the company of Mark English and Thomas Barr.The challenges you face are fatigue from travel, adapting to time zone change, getting a proper sleep pattern going and simply getting and settling routines in place.We kept getting updates from the Donegal v Cork game at yesterday’s training session so there is no getting away from the GAA back at home.
Tags:We were really happy for Rory Gallagher and his team and we will set up a link to watch the Dublin match next Saturday and take time out to cheer the lads on.It’s 26 degrees and I had a relaxing chat with Mark about where it all began for him.After an initial egg and spoon race, his earliest memory it was the annual Finn Valley School Sports in the company of his classmates from Woodlands National School and no doubt he was with Evelyn Roche, his teacher whom I always associate with this pro-active school.Mark got his opportunity at primary school and with his local club at Letterkenny AC and thereafter, with UCD and Ireland. Now, he he prepares for the biggest moment of his life – the 800 metres at the Olympic Games.