Tuesday 16 January 2018

Athletics: Don't let cuts upset Olympic focus - O'Sullivan

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

AS IRISH sport braces itself anxiously for a raft of funding cuts, Sonia O'Sullivan -- Ireland's 'chef de mission' for the London Olympics -- has called on athletes not to let the cutbacks distract them from their goals and training.

The Olympic Council of Ireland has broken with tradition by appointing the inspirational former world and European champion, rather than a long-time sports administrator, to lead the Irish team in London.

And the Sydney Olympic silver medallist showed why yesterday when she called on Ireland's 2012 hopefuls to ignore the cutbacks and just get on with it.

"Even if their support is cut a little, Irish athletes will still be a lot better supported than in some other countries. They've just got to remain positive and focused," O'Sullivan said.

"Look at the Kenyans and Ethiopians. They don't have much financially but they get out there and train and compete because they love it. That's the attitude we must have.

"There may now be instances where athletes aren't able to stay in top hotels or whatever, but the important thing is that they can get to where they need to be, to train and compete. That will still happen.

"Getting hung up on financial issues just uses up energy you need for training. Athletes need to leave any worries like that with their coaches and managers; just shut it out, concentrate on their training and let nothing distract them."

The government's national recovery plan has already recommended an initial cut of €3m in sports funding.

Details of that are expected in today's Budget and the Sports Council's meeting later this month is expected to decide exactly where their knife will fall. But O'Sullivan stressed that the opportunities offered by an Olympics so close to home should outweigh any funding setbacks.

"Having the Olympics in London is a unique chance for us and that's why we want to get as many Irish athletes qualified for it as possible," she said.

O'Sullivan flew in from Australia to launch the 2011 Bord Gais Energy Cork City Marathon yesterday and will also do some Olympic business this week.

"We met all the high performance directors at the start of the year and are meeting them all again this week," she said. "Next year is particularly important because so many athletes will now be chasing Olympic qualification, so we want to make sure that everything is in place for them."

The Cork Marathon, on June 6, will include an inaugural half-marathon next year and will also have IAAF status for the first time.

Since it was revived four years ago, O'Sullivan has always taken part; she ran it as a part of a relay team for the past two years.

Cork attracted 10,000 participants last year and gaining IAAF status should help attract more overseas entrants. It also offers a 50pc entry fee discount to anyone in receipt of welfare benefit (see corkcitymarathon.ie).

Irish Independent

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