Golden tears of joy for Eve and Katie-George
Published 15/09/2016 | 02:30
When the news came through, they screamed. It was yesterday afternoon in Rio, and sitting on a road on the coast at Pontal, Eve McCrystal and Katie-George Dunlevy anxiously awaited the words they knew would ignite either delirium or dejection.
Time trails, unlike road races, burden their constituents with a fraught tension not just during a ride, but in the moments after a cyclist has crossed the line. Minutes before, they had scorched their way through 30km on the sun-baked roads of Rio, and now the Irish women's B tandem pair sat, exhausted and depleted, waiting to hear their fate.
It would be good news, the best news: they were Paralympic gold medallists.
Their time of 38:59.22 left them a whopping 33 seconds clear of silver medallists Japan, and sent a wave of emotion washing over them as they reflected on winning Ireland's fourth gold at these Games.
"We've been waiting to hear that for the last four years," said Dunlevy. "I'm over the moon, ecstatic, I can't even describe how I feel."
The effort had been considerable, the conditions brutal, with heat rising off the roads and sapping their energy.
However, they were the undoubted class act of the field, and pilot McCrystal knew if they avoided accidents, none of their 16 rival teams could match them for power.
"I like a less technical course," she said. "We have the power so we wanted to do it in a straight line."
McCrystal revealed afterwards that she felt ill in the days beforehand, but thoughts of that were put to the back of her mind when she joined Dunlevy on the ramp yesterday. "I told her: 'we're going to win it,'" she said.
Though the crowds weren't all that much beyond an old man and his dog, there was a small but extremely vocal contingent of Irish in attendance, whose presence helped Dunlevy as the going got tough.
"When you're in that much pain, you have each other but you also think of the family members," she said. "You want to do it for them."
Earlier in the day, Colin Lynch had fallen narrowly short of the same achievement when taking the silver medal in the men's C2 time trial. To him, however, it felt like gold.
"This is something I've been working at for four years and it's an absolute dream," he said. "I put all the pressure on myself but I had a huge amount of confidence. Once I feel that medal hanging around my neck, I have a funny feeling I am going to be in tears."
Back in the Olympic park, Ireland won its first swimming medal of the Paralympics through Ellen Keane, who finished third in the final of the SB8 100m breaststroke final last night.
The 21-year-old from Clontarf clocked 1:23.07 in a race won by Canada's Katarina Roxon in 1:19:44 and was, quite understandably, highly emotional in the aftermath.
"I finished, looked up, saw the three beside my name and was just freaking out," said Keane. "Within the last 25 metres I just kept telling myself: 'keep long and strong, don't panic'. There was so little between the top four and I'm so glad I didn't come fourth."
Elsewhere yesterday, Cork paddler Patrick O'Leary reached the final of the FL3 canoe, finishing third in both his heat and semi-final to book his spot in this afternoon's final.
There was no such joy for the Irish men's seven-a-side soccer team, which endured its fourth straight defeat, this time losing 2-1 to USA in the play-off for seventh place.
Irish in action today
Swimming: S9 100m butterfly heats (1.40pm) Ellen Keane. Final* (9.36). SB6 100m breaststroke (1.59) Nicole Turner. Final* (9.50).
Athletics: F57 discus final (2.05) Orla Barry. T37 400m heats (3.45) Paul Keogan.
Canoeing: KL3 200m final (2.10) Patrick O'Leary.
Athletics: Cycling: H2-4 road race (4.20) Ciara Staunton.
Equestrian: Grade 1a individual (4.45) Helen Kearney.
Sailing: Race 7 (5.30), Race 8 (7.0).
Cycling: H3 road race (6.20) Declan Slevin.
Athletics: F41 discus final (9.40pm): Niamh McCarthy.
*subject to qualification