Richard Barrett recently caught up with Irish superstar Derval O’ Rourke to gain an insight into the life of an elite athlete.
Derval O’ Rourke is one of Ireland’s greatest athletes and has been through it all. From winning gold at the World Indoor Games in 2006, to setting Irish records, dealing with funding cuts and preparing for a wedding in September; Derval has had a memorable career and one that is far from over. We recently caught up with the Olympian to talk about everything from the Irish Sports Council to next month’s nuptials.
1. Congratulations on the upcoming wedding, how hard has it been to juggle life as an elite athlete and prepare for a wedding in September?
D: I prioritise my athletics because that’s my job and the wedding is just one day. I hope to have a big fun party on the day of the wedding but life must go on with everything else.
2. Does it help that both you and Peter understand the sacrifices that go with life as an Olympian/professional athlete?
D: Peter is great at understanding my life as an athlete and he always encourages me to put my training first so I think it’s a good match.
3. How did you react when you found out that your funding from the Irish Sports Council had been cut substantially from €40,000 to just €12,000 per year?
D: I was upset but life goes on. It isn’t easy to be an athlete and I’ve become used to the ups and downs that are part of it.
4. Did you feel that they were basically saying that your performances had dropped, and as a result, your funding would reflect that?
D: I don’t think they thought about it too long to be honest. I don’t take it as a reflection of me as an athlete.
5. Do you believe the Irish Sports Council do enough for athletes like yourself, or do certain sports receive a lot more support/recognition?
D: It’s hard to know. I try not to form too many opinions on other sports and if they are receiving more help or not. It’s not my job to change the ISC my job is to run so I try to take care of that.
6. Do you ever worry about the fragility of life as an athlete, where one minor injury can put months of hard work to waste?
D: No it’s part of the game. I’ve always dealt with injury. If you are anywhere near being world-class in athletics you will get hurt from time to time.
7. Is there enough media coverage surrounding sprint hurdles athletes like yourself, or do certain sections of the media only contact you in the run-up to bigger events?
D: If there are medals then there is media and I find that fair enough. Athletics isn’t big in Ireland and as an athlete I feel like it’s my responsibility to run fast enough to be relevant. Other sports bring in far more revenue and interest so that is where the media will focus.
8. What has been the highlight of your career? 2006 was a truly incredible year for you, winning gold in Moscow and silver in Gothenburg.
D: World indoor gold in 2006 was a great moment because I was the best in the world at that moment and not many people ever achieve anything like that. I think my Irish record in Barcelona in 2010 was my best outdoor moment.
9. Do you ever reflect on how successful your career has been thus far, or is it difficult to look back when everything is still geared towards future events?
D: Not really, I always feel like I haven’t done near enough. I’ll reflect when I retire.
10. You have completed a Masters in Business Management. How important is it to plan for life after sports, as the career of a professional athlete is very short in comparison to other professions?
D: It’s hugely important to be balanced and always have other parts to your life. I have ticked a few boxes off the track which should make my post track career easier to transition too.
11. What do you think of the Irish Sports Council’s Athlete Career Development Programme?
D: It’s very important that it is there for athletes to avail of and hopefully athletes will benefit from it.
em>11. How much of your success do you owe to Leevale Athletics Club and the people involved in that Cork club?
D: They are a great club for kids and athletes looking to break through. They were a huge foundation in my development until I left Cork for college at 19.
12. In what ways do you feel athletics could be promoted more effectively in Ireland?
D: I think the sport should use its athletes to go to schools and run clinics. Someone like Rob Heffernan has a huge personality and that should be used. The promotion should be about the athletes not about the people who sit behind the desks.
13. Finally, do you believe you will remain involved in athletics after you retire, in either a coaching capacity or as a pundit? Or is that too far down the line to worry about at the moment?
D: I love the sport so I would hope to be involved but I will need a little break first to deal with the end of my personal involvement.
SIE would like to thank Derval for taking the time out of her busy career to speak with us. We wish her all the best in the future!
Sport Is Everything. Richard Barrett.