Sunday 22 October 2017

where are they now?

MAEVE KYLE

(Former Irish athlete)

Being Ireland's first female Olympian was an honour for Maeve Kyle. She competed at the Games three times, first in 1956 in Melbourne, then in Rome and later in Tokyo.

But her experience was very different to that of today's athletes. When Kyle was selected to go to Melbourne, she was met with public opposition. Letters were published in newspapers saying that she was a disgrace to motherhood and the Irish nation because she was leaving behind her husband and daughter to go and run.

But Kyle didn't let the opposition stop her and she went to Australia and ran the 100m and 200m. She raised the £200 needed to go and the trip took over two weeks with stop-offs in New York, San Francisco and Fiji.

"It was a very exciting time, the trip of a lifetime," says Kyle. "To me the Olympics is the greatest opportunity to be a part of what is a very exclusive club and that is to be among people who are considered by the people in their own country to be the best at what they are doing and as Ronnie Delany says, once an Olympian always an Olympian."

Four years later, she competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics in the 200m and 400m and then in 1964 she went to the Tokyo Games and reached the semi-finals of both the 400m and 800m. Two years after that she won bronze in the 400m at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Dortmund.

Kyle grew up in Kilkenny and before she got involved in athletics at elite level she was a top-class hockey player.

Throughout her running career she continued to play hockey and over the years amassed 58 Irish caps as well as representing Munster, Leinster and Ulster. In 2006, she was inducted into Irish hockey's Hall of Fame.

Kyle also enjoyed several other sports, and was very competitive at tennis, swimming, sailing and cricket.

In 1955, along with her husband, Sean, she founded the Ballymena & Antrim Athletic Club. Originally it was just for women, but after a year they opened the doors to men too. Kyle still coaches in the club but more on a consultancy level. She's content to watch the Olympics at home on the TV this time round and feels that because the weather will suit the Irish athletes there might be a few surprise successes.

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