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Japan postponement a 'golden opportunity' for rising star Nadia

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Power had already done a delighted interview and posed for pictures when an official called her aside minutes after the race, his expression telling her everything: she’d been disqualified. Photo by Giancarlo Colombo/Sportsfile

Power had already done a delighted interview and posed for pictures when an official called her aside minutes after the race, his expression telling her everything: she’d been disqualified. Photo by Giancarlo Colombo/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Power had already done a delighted interview and posed for pictures when an official called her aside minutes after the race, his expression telling her everything: she’d been disqualified. Photo by Giancarlo Colombo/Sportsfile

For any athlete, those moments after the finish are a time to savour. The fatigue starts to fade and a realisation dawns that their work has finally come to fruition.

But for Nadia Power, the ecstatic euphoria of winning a bronze medal at the European U-23 Championships in Gavle, Sweden last year was interrupted, replaced with a sickening, stomach-churning stress.

Power had already done a delighted interview and posed for pictures when an official called her aside minutes after the race, his expression telling her everything: she'd been disqualified.

Rule 163.2: obstruction.

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The incident occurred halfway through the 800m final, when Britain's Jemma Reekie moved in front of Power entering a bend, at which point the Dubliner put her arms out to protect her space.

The Irish team lodged an appeal, and Power tried to put up a front. "I didn't let anything out, but inside I was hysterical," says the 22-year-old. "I was devastated. Everyone was avoiding looking at me; they knew I was in the worst state ever."

The Irish management approached the Brits, explaining how the appeal would argue the obstruction Power caused to Reekie had little or no effect given Reekie went on to win. "Jemma was so good," says Power. "She went to the officials and said, 'I felt nothing, I wasn't impeded'."

It was 90 minutes before Power got the news: she was reinstated, once again a European medallist.

The stadium was empty when she finally stood on the rostrum and Power's chief memory after that was "wanting to get on the bus and hide in case someone came after me again".

Her journey to a European podium was many years in the making. A big teenage talent, Power had a choice of US scholarship offers but admits she was "blinded by the bright lights of a big American college" in choosing the University of Virginia.

The dream was not as she'd imagined it. From the start, Power was homesick and her coach ramped up her mileage, with hard eight-mile runs a daily staple, more than twice what she'd done back home. A few months later, Power turned her back on the place for good.

She had booked flights to Dublin months before the Christmas break but closer the time, her coach demanded she change the dates to return to Virginia two days earlier in time for a team meeting. That would cost an extra €700, so Power flew back on the original date, which got her temporarily suspended from the team and saw her scholarship cut by five per cent. Two weeks later, she booked a one-way flight back to Dublin.

She enrolled in DCU later that year and has since been under the guidance of Enda Fitzpatrick, her times continuing to creep towards world-class territory.

Last summer she lowered her 800m best to 2:02.39 and in March she won the Irish indoor 800m title.

In recent months, she's done all her gym work in her back garden in Templeogue while most of her running sessions are in Tymon Park, where she often trains with her boyfriend, Dublin hurler James Madden.

"He's getting fitter," she says, "and I'm getting a lot faster."

To Power, the postponement of the Olympics is a "golden opportunity", giving her more time to prepare as she enters final year of her marketing degree at DCU. If she can take another second or two off her 800m PB in the next 12 months, that Tokyo vision will become a reality.

"It's a goal now," she says, "rather than the amazing bonus it would have been this year. It's every athlete's dream."

Indo Sport