Sunday 11 December 2016

Athletics: Sonia still ponders legitimacy of Chinese rivals

Published 08/12/2011 | 05:00

SONIA O'SULLIVAN has admitted she still wonders about the legitimacy of some of the Chinese athletes who beat her in her 1990s heyday.

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"It's amazing that some of those world records still stand and no one questions it. Like, 8:06 for 3,000 metres for a woman is kind of out of this world," said the Cobh star in a reference to China's Wang Junxia's time of 8:06.11.

O'Sullivan's 3,000m personal best of 8:21.64, run in 1994, stood as the European record for nearly a decade.

"But even if someone came out now and said they were cheating that's not really going to change anything, is it?" she added philosophically.

O'Sullivan often reflects, however, on how, when she was the hot 3,000m favourite at the 1993 World Championships, a group of unknown Chinese athletes kept her out of the medals.

"I think, at the time, I was so focused on what I was doing that I didn't want to be distracted by getting into a war of words about what they might be doing," she revealed. "Now I look back at stuff like that and, in some ways, you kind of wish you were a bit more vocal and dug in a bit more.

"But maybe I would have been kind of going down the wrong road. Instead of that, I decided I'm going to run 100 miles a week and get fitter and faster and try and keep up with them ... and then they didn't turn up the next year!"

As 'chef de mission' for Ireland's team in London 2012, O'Sullivan conceded that "if we don't get a single medal next year, then it's totally unsuccessful.

"I would be the last person to name anyone because nobody deserves that pressure going into an Olympic Games," she said. "But there are athletes in there capable of winning medals and there are athletes in there capable of competing better than they have done before in their lives and that's all you can ask."

Irish Independent

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