Sonia wants to be ‘leading light’ for Irish athletesIreland’s most celebrated athlete, Sonia O’Sullivan, has announced her intention to be a more active “leading light” for Irish athletes and give back to the sport she loves by setting up her own group to develop athletes to deliver on the world stage.
O’Sullivan caused a stir by giving her opinion on the sport domestically recently but is keen to stress her desire to foster a positive energy amongst Irish athletes.
“Sometimes the truth hurts but I was giving my opinion and it was meant to be of benefit to the athletes,” said the multiple world champion.
“I want to be a leading light for athletes and a kind of umbrella to help them achieve their goals. I want to send out a positive message and breathe a positive energy into their running.”
The group will be called Sonia ag Rith after her twitter name @soniaagrith which had, until recently, left many confused by what it actually meant – Sonia Running for the non gaeilgoirí.
The first planned get together is before the Athletics Ireland Fit4Youth 6 week programme on September 16 at the UCC Sonia O’Sullivan track.
“I’ve always wanted to do something with the twitter name,” said O’Sullivan. “And hopefully by setting this up, I can make a difference to the performances of Irish athletes. This year I’ve helped Laura Crowe who has done really well and made a big improvement by linking up with my husband Nic [Bideau].”
Bideau is the director of the Melbourne Track Club and helps Paul Robinson, Laura Crowe and Mark English. All have excelled this year, most recently in Rieti where Robinson set a national U23 1500m record (3:35.22), Crowe ran a personal best over 800m (2:00.93) and English eight hundredths of a second outside the national 800m record with 1:44.89.
The Cobh native believes a positive team focusing on racing and not times is the key to Irish athletes performing well.
“It’s an individual thing when you are racing on the track but every individual has a team behind them. All these people who have an influence on what you’re doing and the most important thing is that they are all very positive.
“They don’t all have to be very serious though. You need to have someone who makes you laugh and kind of relaxes the atmosphere.”
O’Sullivan feels athletes should view racing as a game. “It’s all about racing. If you go out there and try and beat as many people as you can, you will eventually start getting into the right races.
“If you train hard, the race is just a game. It’s like a game of chess. You know there are certain people you can beat in a sprint and others that you know you can keep up with. By focusing on the race rather than times you will get results. If you’ve trained hard in the winter, then you have nothing to be afraid of.”
Now O’Sullivan has come full circle and is back running with the masses.
“I started off running the Evening Echo Mini Marathon in Cork at 15 to winning world and Olympic medals to coming back down now to where I started. It’s my passion.”
The 43-year-old also combines some cycling with her main passion to keep fit. “Cycling is a fantastic activity for getting you outdoors and keeping fit. The Rebel Tour is a great opportunity to take on a different challenge.”