O'Lionaird vows to bounce back after Olympic agony
By Kieran McCarthy
MACROOM Olympian Ciaran O’Lionard has vowed to bounce back stronger after his disappointing Olympic Games experience in London.
Struggling with an Achilles injury for most of this year, the Cork athlete disappointed in his heat of the 1,500m in London, finishing second last in a time of 3.48.35, which is well outside his personal best of 3.34.46.
In an interview just after the race, a downbeat O’Lionaird suggested that he was ready to quit athletics.
But he has committed himself to the sport, vowing to use the pain of London to inspire him to be ready for the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
‘The dejection and anger that I felt after is something that I probably could have portrayed a little differently but that anger is important because it will motivate me in the future. I am going to draw on that,’ O’Lionaird told the Saturday Sports Show on Newstalk.
‘A lot of tough days will be coming up, the hard slog in training, and I will think back to how I felt walking off the track (on Friday night) and I never want to feel that way again. It will be motivation, for sure.
‘With hindsight I could look back and say that I shouldn’t have run. But I did. And these are the consequences. But there are some things to draw on, there is an Olympic experience to draw on.
‘And I really believe that if I make the right decisions then it will help me leading into 2016.’
O’Lionaird now feels really motivated to make a big impact in athletics, and his main priority right now is to get 100 per cent fit again. The Achilles injury that has plagued him this season needs to be addressed now, and that’s what he is planning to do.
‘It’s been so long since I have run without pain that I have almost forgotten what it’s like to be running free and enjoying the sport, and enjoying just getting out and competing without having those dark clouds looming over you,’ O’Lionaird said.
‘(On Friday night), I was just so far removed from even the world championships last year and all the positivity that was surrounding me as a young, promising runner.
‘I feel I have aged so much in a year because my body has broken down, and the weight of expectation that I have put on myself and that has been around me, and that has played a part in that as well.
‘I am the kind of person who wants to be at his best so I was thinking that I don’t want to be there if I am not at my best’
‘Now it’s time to rediscover the love for the sport and the excitement, the first part of that is getting healthy and rationalising things. This is the first day in the build-up to 2016, and to see what I can do, and to get there healthy.’
With getting fighting fit and healthy his first goal, the Macroom man is adamant that he can still make a name for himself in the sport, just like he did at the world championships in Daegu last year.
‘I know I can be better than what I was (on Friday night). I want to make an impact in the sport. I do believe that I can compete at a world level, and I really want to prove that,’ O’Lionaird said.
‘You have to go in with a positive mental attitude. It definitely doesn’t help that you can feel your Achilles with every step you take but at the same time it did make some significant progress in the last couple of weeks so I thought it could make an impact but I found it really difficult. It’s a lesson learned in that regard.’
Explaining just how the Achilles injury affected his training and performance, O’Lionaird said: ‘It’s an injury that prevents you from sprinting which obviously puts you at a disadvantage in tactical situations, although I had some decent tune-up races and relatively okay build-up training, in strength and endurance work.
‘It was very disappointing to go out in an Olympic Games and perform like that but I definitely learned at this level of competition that you can’t come out and not be 100 per cent.’
O’Lionaird himself had toyed with the idea of not competing in the Olympics in London and instead devoting the time to getting himself fit, but he was encouraged to compete at the Games.
‘A lot of people around me said that I need to give it a go because it is the Olympics, that I may not have another Olympics again and that I need to take this opportunity,’ O’Lionaird said.
‘I am the kind of person who wants to be at his best so I was thinking that I don’t want to be there if I am not at my best. I battled with that for quite a while.
‘I was really disappointed (after the race) because it highlighted that I really was right with my original instinct that I shouldn’t have gone out there and given it a go.
‘I have learned a lot of lessons about my body, what it can handle and what it can’t handle, and what physical and mental state you need to be to handle a major championship. I am hoping that will stand to me in the future.’
Meanwhile, fellow Cork Olympian Billy Twomey bowed out of the equestrian at the third day of showjumping action at Grenwich Park. He failed to make the cut after adding eight more faults to the four he collected in the opening class with Tinka's Serenade.
Also, Crosshaven native Peter O’Leary, along with David Burrows, finished tenth in the medal race and tenth overall in the Star class at the Games. This was the best result Ireland has ever had at this Class, even though there were high hopes that the Irish duo could medal.
ISA Performance Director James O’Callaghan said: ‘While it is the best result we have achieved in the Star class it is still disappointing.
‘We came here hoping to be fighting for a medal. That plan has not worked out in a way we could have foreseen.’