Thursday 22 February 2018

Going to Games is just normal in our house, say sporting duo

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

IT was during the long flight home from Beijing that fellow Cork Olympians Derval O'Rourke and Peter O'Leary discovered they shared a connection that went beyond sport.

The sprint hurdles athlete from Douglas and the sailor from Crosshaven had first struck up a conversation at the closing ceremony of the last Olympic Games.

Both were in a subdued mood that night. Injury had denied O'Rourke (31) victory in the 100 metre hurdles, while O'Leary (29) had finished a disappointed 13th in his Olympic debut.

On the plane home, they found they had been seated alphabetically beside one another and spent hours talking. Afterwards, they arranged to meet again.

Within a few months, they had moved in together and now share a house in south Dublin.

When it comes to downtime, they seldom discuss sport because of their vastly different disciplines.

In recent interviews, the blonde sportswoman said she got the impression "people would like to hear that we are sitting there analysing hurdle technique, and discussing the possible weather conditions for Weymouth."

However, the truth is "more boring", she said.

"He rings me, and tells me what positions they came. Otherwise I don't have a clue, just as he doesn't have a clue how to jump a hurdle. I'm not into sailing, and I don't even swim. But I understand the competitive side of it."


The only thing that makes life easy, she says, is that they are both on similar schedules.

"It just seems normal in our house that we're going to the Olympics. If I was going out with somebody else it might be a bigger deal," she said.

The couple occasionally share a session in the gym and O'Rourke revealed that she was more competitive than her boyfriend.

"I want to beat him in everything whereas he couldn't care less."

O'Rourke has told interviewers that she feels sailing as a sport is "unbelievably hard" and "misunderstood".

"The amount of work that goes into it is quite colossal," she said.

And on her blog, O'Rourke said that she loves to go along to a sailing event because it is "much more chilled out than athletics".

In the run-up to the London Games, the couple took the stress in their stride, preferring to remain "pretty calm" and to focus on training.

O'Rourke is the Irish national record holder in both events, has participated in the past five "outdoor" World Championships and in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

She graduated from UCD with a business degree in 2003 and completed a master's in business management from Smurfit Business School. O'Rourke puts this rounded lifestyle approach down to her upbringing.

As a child, her parents never allowed her to go training unless she had first done her homework.

Irish Independent

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