- 09 Apr 01
Striking Gold and setting a new World record might be enough to satisfy some athletes but for Sonia O'Sullivan such exploits are merely a warm-up for the glories that lie ahead. Ireland's athletics superstar talks to Liam Fay about winning, losing and the personal sacrifices she's prepared to make in order to become the best.
Meanwhile, however, for most of the Spring and Summer, Irish eyes were smiling on America and the World Cup escapade. That was fine by Sonia. In fact, she preferred it that way. Ironically though, by the time the national focus did begin to swivel over to the fortunes of the 24-year-old cheetah from Cobh, her luck had changed and her form was slipping, badly. She was losing races, coming second, third, fourth. When it came, the full glare of public attention from her home country was blinding, intense and often blistering.
“Irish people are critical more than anything else and also very negative in how they see different performances,” Sonia asserts, her gaze lowered in reflection. “They always see the negative side rather than the positive side. Sometimes it’s easier to see the negative side. If something bad happens to me, if I run a bad race, then I automatically have to see the positive side. It doesn’t do me any good to think negatively. When something like that happens, I feel I have to defend myself all the time from what people say and what people assume. I have to keep defending myself. That’s why I’m glad I live in London. If I was at home, it’d be even more difficult.”
Inevitably, Sonia believes, it’s the people who know the least about the sport who make the loudest criticisms.