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Q&A with athlete and lifestyle entrepreneur Derval O'Rourke: 'Seeing my two kids together makes me very proud'


Derval O'Rourke

Derval O'Rourke

Derval O'Rourke

Derval O'Rourke was a professional track athlete for 12 years and crowned world indoor 60m hurdles champion in Moscow in 2006. She studied Sociology in UCD followed by a Business Management masters at Smurfit Business School. She has been a team coach on RTé's Ireland's Fittest Family, written two bestselling cookery book and started her own online business. She is married to sailor Peter O'Leary, who she met on the plane coming home from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They have two children, Dafne (4) and Archie (1), and live in Cork.

What was the first book you loved?

I loved all the Harry Potter books, even though I was in my twenties when I read them. I can't wait for my daughter to be old enough to re-read them with her.

What's your best holiday memory?

My honeymoon in 2013. We went to Mykonos in Greece and stayed in a stunning hotel looking out at the sea.

What is your biggest fear?

People close to me dying is a huge fear of mine. Since I've had my kids, I worry about my own death in a way I never did before I had them.

How are you coping with the Covid-19 crisis?

I'm making a conscious effort to think of the positives.

What are you most proud of?

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I'm really proud of my two kids. Seeing them together makes me very proud. I'm also really proud of myself, the things that I've achieved as a professional athlete and then being able to transition into the business world.

What's your least attractive quality - and what is your most?

My least attractive quality is that I can be really blunt if something annoys or upsets me. I find it hard to say nothing and let things go. I think my most attractive quality is that I'm loyal. Loyalty is a quality I really value in people.

What's the first thing you'd do if you were Taoiseach?

I would look at gender inequality across all the sections of our society and try to implement measures that would make a difference.

What's your biggest insecurity?

I hate watching myself on TV, or listening to myself on radio. Anytime I work on television I find it way too hard to see myself. I'm really critical of myself, so I prefer to not watch anything I do.

Who'd you most like to go for a pint with?

This is going to sound odd, but I'd quite like to go for a drink with the Queen Mother. Although a pint seems inappropriate - it would have to be a really fancy glass of wine.

What fictional character do you most identify with?

I really don't identify with any. Is that terrible?

What is your most treasured possession?

I have a coffee table with the medals from my athletics career and I really love it. The kids play with toys on it all the time and don't even notice that my entire running career is housed in there.

What's your guilty pleasure?

I love a nice bottle of champagne and a good chat.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

"You're spirited and tough, so stop doubting yourself and start backing yourself." An athletics agent gave me this piece of advice at 18, and it has always stuck with me.

Who are your heroes?

I've a couple of friends working in the healthcare system and I think what they do every day is heroic.

When did you last cry?

I cried a couple of weeks ago out of sheer frustration trying to juggle the kids with work during the restrictions.

What are you going to do right after this interview?

I'm running a four-week healthy lifestyle challenge, 'Summer Strong', on Derval.ie at the moment, so straight after this I'll be checking in with my members to see how they are doing. Today it's a home circuit, and the recipe of the day is granola.

What keeps you awake at night?

I juggle the kids and work a lot so I often work at night and I find it hard to switch my brain off. I'll often lie awake thinking of fitness plans and recipes, which I realise is very silly. They never seem as important the next morning.

What's your greatest passion in life?

For years I wanted to be the best runner in the world and was incredibly passionate about that career. Now I deeply care about bringing up my kids around kind, fun and motivated people who will help them carve out their best life.

If you had to choose only three adjectives to describe yourself, which would they be?

Energetic, chatty and grateful.

What's your favourite film?

I really don't have one. I tend to watch more TV than films.

What's the last TV show you binge-watched?

I just binge-watched Suits as far as Season 8.

What one piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

You are smarter than you think and you'll find college much easier than school, so don't get disheartened - you will find your way.

What do you regret not doing in the last year?

More girls trips with my friends. I had a few planned that got put on the back burner and I really regret that now.

What does your dream weekend look like?

Lie-ins, lovely long breakfasts, exercise, reading the newspapers, meeting friends for coffee, going on a family trip to the beach and dinner in a nice restaurant.

What job would you be terrible at?

I would be a terrible accountant. I hate spreadsheets and number-based projects. I'm way more creative.

Do you believe in a God?

I believe there is something more than just us and the lives we live. I'm not sure what that God is or looks like, though.

Derval is the creator of healthy lifestyle platform www.derval.ie

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