Thursday 21 November 2019

A tough road, but one that led to great victory

Slight of build, large of heart. The country which rejoiced at Katie Taylor's achievements last summer now admires with equal fervour another Wicklow girl, Fionnuala Britton.

Katie was one of the stars of the London Olympics. But Fionnuala suffered what for lesser beings would have been a crushing disappointment. She was "lapped" in the 10km final and finished 15th.

As summer turned to autumn and then to winter, Fionnuala trod – literally – the hard road to her comeback. She must have spent as many hours on the track as Katie did in the boxing ring.

The journey ended in Hungary, on a track covered with frozen snow. She came out of it as the European cross-country champion, the only woman to win and retain the title. She and the Irish team won gold medals.

For fans, at this season, there had to be a pantomime moment. In pantomime, the juvenile audience screams a warning to the hero or heroine of the villain's proximity: "He's behind you!" The spectators in Hungary did exactly the same thing when Ana Dulce Felix, a Portuguese competitor who had fallen behind, recovered strongly and seemed briefly to threaten Fionnuala's lead.

The Wicklow girl just kept on running. It was typical of her courage and concentration. She will run again, and win again.

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