Thursday 29 September 2016

Sonia's pride as Cobh unveils her statue

Published 21/09/2015 | 02:30

Sonia O Sullivan's home town of Cobh, Co Cork, has unveiled a life-size bronze statue in her honour
Sonia O Sullivan's home town of Cobh, Co Cork, has unveiled a life-size bronze statue in her honour

The golden girl of Irish athletics, Sonia O'Sullivan has accepted there is "probably no chance" of her being awarded medals from 1990s championships, when she was beaten by drug cheats.

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Sonia (45) was speaking as she admitted she was "overwhelmed" by her home town of Cobh, Co Cork, unveiling a life-size bronze statue in her honour.

The former Olympic, World and European Championship medal winner was accompanied to the gala ceremony by her husband, Nick Bideau, and her children, Ciara and Sophie.

But the most honoured star in Irish athletics history admitted she won't add any more medals to her total despite the recent revelations about drugs cheats.

Athletics commentators regard Sonia O'Sullivan as one of the primary victims of drug cheats in the 1990s.

"My feeling is that I was before the time of the digital camera - all my photographs are in print. I was also before the time when they started storing the records of drug tests, blood tests and the like.

"Since then, the advancement in the technology has been incredible. How you test the samples, how you store the samples - it has all increased so much since my time .

When asked if she thought there was any chance of her being retrospectively awarded a medal because of the actions of drug cheat rivals, Sonia admitted it was unlikely. "Probably not, no," she said.

Medals

She finished fourth in the 3,000 metres at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics - only to discover the following year that Tetyana Dorovskikh, who claimed a silver medal, was convicted of a doping violation in 1993.

However, under the regulations in force at the time, the Russian could not be stripped of her medal.

At the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, Sonia was again forced out of the medals by three Chinese runners who, appearing on the athletics scene from nowhere, smashed existing records by astounding margins.

However, despite speculation at the time, none of them was ever convicted of doping violations.

Yesterday, Sonia admitted she was "very proud and deeply grateful" for her home town honouring her career.

The statue by James McLoughlin was the brainchild of Cobh Tourism and unveiled to mark the 20th anniversary of Sonia's gold medal-winning performance at the 1995 Gothenburg World Championships.

"This statue captures the determination and spirit of Sonia and celebrates her achievements over a long and glittering career," Cobh Tourism director Hendrick Verwey explained.

Irish Independent

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