Dashing Derval makes the most of her silver lining
THE last time Derval O'Rourke returned home to Dublin airport having broken the national record for the 100m hurdles, nobody took much notice -- and she headed straight to long-term parking.
What a difference a medal makes.
When she broke the national record for the 100m hurdles in the World Championship final last summer, there was no grinning minister sidling up to her when she landed, no announcement over the airport tannoy, no youngsters looking for autographs, no TV cameras, no interest.
"Last year I was fourth and came home and went straight to long-term parking -- there was nobody here," she said with a smile yesterday.
She broke the national record for the 100m hurdles again in Barcelona on Saturday, beating her previous best by 0.02 seconds. This time around the 29-year-old athlete admitted she was "overwhelmed" at the reception at Dublin Airport.
This time, she had a medal.
Not that we're fickle, of course. And even if we are, it seems Derval forgives us.
"In our sport, medals are a kind of currency," she said. "It's the only thing that counts."
The engaging hurdler now has four from major championships. "This one I probably expected a little bit more -- I've come to have quite high standards for myself," she said.
"It's a tiny bit disappointing that it was silver. But a medal is a medal; they stay in the record books. And I hope I will leave behind quite a few."
She posed for photos with Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Mary Hanafin (above) and received flowers from Athletics Ireland (AAI) as she came through arrivals at 1pm.
And it was smiles all round despite her stinging critique of AAI less than 24 hours before, when she rubbished the support and funding given to our top athletes. "I think that was more a two-minute thing," she said. "I was more into talking about the medal. I think they're in a transition phase. I'm just running and doing my thing.
"The funding I'm getting is amazing. I'm getting it from the Sports Council, at top grant level (worth approximately €40,000), and it's made a huge difference to me."
In the more immediate future, however, she was just looking for her bed. Derval -- and she has joined those Irish sporting greats for whom the first name is sufficient -- had only had three hours sleep in the previous 48.
More surprising, though, was that she hadn't yet seen her 12.65-second run in Barcelona.
But there is time enough for that and "a few glasses of wine" before she gets back on the track next week. Predictably, her focus is already on the world championships in South Korea in 2011 and the London Olympics in 2012.
"I think I like the atmosphere of the big day," she said. "I like when all the chips are down and you just have to run for your life. I think at a championship it's a clean slate. Everyone has the same chance so I like those odds a little bit."
And we all like a medal winner.