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Athletics: Hard road to glory for elite performer

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 17/02/2013 | 04:00

This may sound far-fetched but one of the most ferocious competitors in Irish sport over the last decade was a quietly spoken five foot three mother-of-one from Galway.

And Olive Loughnane, who retired last week, may well be the most under-rated Irish sportsperson of those past ten years. Her silver medal in the 20km walk at the 2009 World Championships was a truly stellar display, making her part of an elite club of Irish athletes who've medalled in Olympic games or World Championships.

In the modern era, there's the big three of Sonia O'Sullivan Eamonn Coghlan and John Treacy. And then there's Olive Loughnane and the sometimes unjustly forgotten Gillian O'Sullivan, who won her silver in the 20km walk in 2003.

That Loughnane achieved her medal in Berlin in blistering summer heat, overcoming favourites from powerful Russian and Chinese squads at the age of 33 was remarkable. And so was the fact that she did so as the mother of a three-year-old daughter, Eimear.

It wasn't a flash in the pan. The Loughrea AC athlete had finished seventh a year earlier in the Beijing Olympics and in an international career which spanned over a decade she finished in the top 20 in major championships five times. But her crowning glory will always remain that day in Berlin.

Her personal best was one hour 27 minutes and 45 seconds. Which roughly equates to a 90-minute half marathon. Walking. Think about it.

They didn't come much tougher than Olive Loughnane.

Irish Independent

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