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Sunday 22 October 2017

Athlete is stripped of gold medal for being too young

Michael McHale and Tom O'Riordan

THERE was ecstasy and then agony for a young athlete after she romped home in style to win a major cross-country event yesterday.

No sooner had Siofra Clerigh-Buttner picked up her gold medal for winning the junior women's race in the cross-country championships in Dublin's Phoenix Park than she was disqualified and forced to give it back because she was too young.

Siofra, who has been involved in athletics for two years, raced past her more experienced competitors to win easily by a 45-second margin.

But the joy of her triumph was short-lived after race organisers found that the 14-year-old girl was two years under the age limit. Under the rules for junior women's running, participants must be at least 16.

Siofra is a member of Dundrum Athletics Club and a pupil in St Augustine's College in Blackrock, Dublin.

Athletics Association of Ireland (AAI) officials became aware of the controversy shortly after the race, when a spectator who had recognised the girl made a complaint.

Controversy

Siofra was then stripped of her gold medal and it was given to Mary Mulhare of Co Laois.

Last night the AAI was still reeling from the controversy and making enquiries into how it happened. A spokesman for the association said that the 14-year-old had only been named as a replacement on the team sheet yesterday morning.

He added that the club knew she was ineligible when secretary Martin O'Connor entered the original team last week. However, it was the club's head coach, Eddie McDonagh, who had written Siofra's name on the application, crossing out another athlete's name but not changing the date of birth.

Mr McDonagh was unavailable for comment last night.

"Dundrum is a particularly juvenile-focussed club," the AAI spokesman said. "In most cases it would be that an athlete would be over-age for a race, so this is particularly unusual."

Cross-country results

Irish Independent

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