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Monday 27 January 2020

I was in tears after Olympic defeat, says Roche

Mark O'Regan and Ralph Riegel

CYCLING legend Stephen Roche yesterday revealed that he returned from the 1980 Moscow Olympics "in tears and filled with disillusionment, with no medals and no job".

The former Olympian said Irish athletes in this year's Games should receive specialist "psychological training" before and after the event to prepare for when things "don't go to plan".

The psychological welfare of Irish Olympic athletes has been under the spotlight following the suicide of Darren Sutherland and the descent into alcoholism of Kenny Egan after their success in the last Games.

Dream

"There should be some sort of psychological training and education programme before and after the Olympics," Mr Roche told the Irish Independent yesterday

"Athletes have a dream of success -- but there are only three spots on the winning podium.

"Disillusionment particularly comes into play when things don't go to plan. Many people chuck in their jobs and education in the pursuit of Olympic glory," he said, adding that the Olympic Council and Sports Council should play a role in educating athletes.

Mr Roche, then an amateur, competed in the Moscow road race in 1980 but finished 45th.

"I remember being with Barry McGuigan and crying because I didn't know what to do. I had no job and no medals. I was totally disillusioned" he revealed.

Seven years later, though, he became only the second cyclist in history to win the cycling Triple Crown -- the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and the World Championship -- in the same year.

He was speaking yesterday at the launch of the 'Kilometres for Kids' fundraising initiative in Dublin, which aims to raise funds to upgrade the cardiac and oncology units at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.

The Kilometres for Kids Cycling Challenge will take place at Mr Roche's cycling camp on the island of Mallorca from October 6-13 and the Kilometres for Kids New York City Marathon with Team Eamonn Coghlan will run from November 1-7.

The former Olympic runner and current senator insisted there were measures in place to assist athletes who fell short of the finishing line and subsequently found it hard to adjust to life after sport.

"The Irish Institute of Sport has a marvellous support mechanism. They provide psychological advice prior to and after the Games," said Mr Coghlan.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Beijing to London Olympics conference in Cork yesterday, Olympic silver medallist John Treacy stressed that culture, climate, diet and transport now all favoured Irish athletes to be able to perform at their very best.

Irish Independent

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