This cat is ready to pounce on her shot at Rio Olympics
Kilkenny runner Ciara Everard has shown she has the calibre and speed to compete with world's best.
Kilkenny runner and elite athlete Ciara Everard is one of the brightest shining stars of the current generation of talented Irish athletes. The 23 year old is a middle-distance runner, who specialises in the 800 metres, with a career very much on the rise. She has even trampled upon a record of Sonia O'Sullivan's by setting a new record time in the Under-23 category at the 2012 indoors.
"I think in recent years more and more emphasis has been placed on the sprint component of middle-distance running as you definitely need speed in the closing stages of the race," says Ciara.
With a mum who is a former PE teacher and older brothers who were runners and heavily involved in the local athletics club, Kilkenny City Harriers, sporting genes were deeply rooted in Ciara's make-up.
"My older brother Eoin still runs 1500 metre events, he was National Outdoor Champion last year and is a sub-four-minute miler.
"I guess you could say it's in the family. I first discovered my talent for running when I won a schools' race when I was about seven. After that my mum signed me up with the local club and it just went from there."
Turning 17 brought a change of mindset in the young athlete and she decided to take her training more seriously in order to see what she could achieve.
"I always loved competing and training when I was younger but it was more of a social thing. When I was 17 I went on a training camp with the Irish junior team and I was exposed to a much more professional and serious side of running. I began to realise that, if I put my mind to it, I could really achieve something from it. In 2008 I qualified for the World Junior Championships; it was an amazing experience which enhanced my dedication to the sport."
Everard started to show her form, performing well at university events by winning a few individual intervarsity titles for UCD, and she currently holds the intervarsity 800-metre indoor record.
Her schedule of training a gruelling seven to eight times a week has enhanced her progress.
"I usually have two weights sessions a week, three running sessions and then easy runs on the other days so it adds up to about seven to eight times per week, I still manage to get a rest day though."
Coached for the last two years by athletics coach James Nolan, who was an Irish international runner from 1996 until 2008, has enriched the career of the sportswoman.
"James was a two-time Olympian, European Indoor medallist and he competed at European and world level for over 10 years. His own experience as an athlete is certainly his greatest asset as a coach. My times have improved consistently over the last few years as I've become aerobically stronger. James has also helped improve my confidence in my ability as an athlete.
"I was previously coached by Ned Nolan for 13 years, who is almost like a father figure to me and I would still have a very close relationship with him. However, when I moved to Dublin four years ago I needed a group to train with and, as I was studying in UCD, it was natural that I fell into James's group."
Everard is a three-times National Indoor Champion but her 2013 victory was the highlight for her.
"The competition was so tough last year, female middle-distance running really just exploded, and everyone was breaking personal bests. I had just set a national record the week before, so getting the win was really important to me, winning that title really gave me the confidence I needed going into the Europeans."
Her biggest result to date is coming sixth at the European Senior Indoor Championships in Gothenburg.
Not only a full-time athlete, Ciara also somehow finds time to study a Masters in sports physiotherapy.
"I always wanted to be a physio for as long as I can remember. My older brother is a physio as well, so I may have been influenced by that. I liked science in school and liked sports so it seemed like physio was a good fit."
Ciara has chosen to do a part-time Masters in UCD because of the workload and a desire to focus on her running. Working in the UCD Institute for Sport and Health, where the physiotherapy clinic is located as well as the UCD high-performance gym, means she spends the majority of her time on the Belfield campus.
"I've chosen a career path of part-time education and part-time work as I don't think it's possible to fit in full-time study with work and training.
But juggling study and work with training can still prove tricky. "It's tough at times, but I have a lot of help from the UCD Ad Astra academy who have been extremely good to me over the years, they make sure that all exams and assignments are worked around my training and competition, whilst my employers are very understanding about my athletics and cater for me to have time off when I need it."
The biggest addition to Ciara's training over the last number of years has been the addition of strength and conditioning.
"My strength and conditioning coach George Petrakos is excellent and has really helped to improve my power and explosive strength which has helped my kick and enabled me to maintain good form throughout the race. George also works very closely with my physio Emma Gallivan in keeping my rehab up to date and keeping me injury-free and healthy."
Aiming to qualify for the World Indoor Championships in March in Poland and the 2014 European Athletics Outdoor Championships in Zurich, Switzerland, this summer, Ciara has high hopes for the future.
"I'm really excited about these competitions as it gives me an opportunity to gain some championship experience and compete against the best in the world and hopefully get the best out of myself."
To crank things up a notch Rio 2016 is her biggest objective of all.
"Rio 2016 is obviously a big aspiration for me as it is for any athlete. The Olympics is the pinnacle of all sports and hence it would be an honour to compete there."
Ciara Everard is a brand ambassador for PUMA. Check out www.puma.com/running or visit Amphibian King.