Olympic rower Claire Lambe retired from her sport last year at the age of 27, following a memorable career at the highest level. She and Sinead Lynch came sixth at the Rio Games, making history by becoming the first Irish women’s crew to make an Olympics final.
Now she’s teamed up with the Olympic Federation of Ireland to launch Dare to Believe, a school activation programme championed and supported by the Athletes’ Commission.
“Schools can sign up online and they’ll be sent a full pack to the teacher to run through the five rings and they’ll talk about the different Olympic values, healthy eating, being active, and there are lots of interactive videos and activities to do. Also, during the programme, they’ll bring out an Olympian or an aspiring Olympian to talk about their sport.”
The programme has helped her to transition out of sport. “I’m working as an engineer and I’m [living] a more normal life. This has given me a really good opportunity to reflect on my journey, go through what kind of messages or lessons I feel I can pass on.”
Working in a career she loves has helped, but for any athlete, transition is a time of challenge.
After training in Cork for a number of years, Dubliner Claire undertook a master’s in engineering for sustainable development, in Cambridge. Now she has returned to Cork after taking up a job with Arup.
“We’ve bought a place in Shandon, it’s super close to the city. I really love the atmosphere and, of course, I love the livability of the city, to be able to walk to work and if I want to go cycling, 10 minutes and you’re out on country roads.”
See daretobelieve.ie for further information
What shape are you in?
I’m used to being the lightweight rower that trained three times a day and was on a pretty regimented diet. But I would say I’m in good shape. I try to get at least an hour’s exercise a day — that’s vital for me and anyone who spends time with me as well. I cycle. I do weights — I think it’s really important to keep up that form of resistance training — and running. I’ve started a course to become a pilates teacher as well.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
Starting my day with a decent breakfast because you’re then less inclined to snack throughout the day. And not cutting out any one thing — all in moderation.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
Anyone who knows me who’s asked that question will say scones. That’s my guilty pleasure — I might skip lunch and have a scone instead.
What would keep you awake at night?
Not a lot — I’m a pretty good sleeper. I think you learn to almost fall asleep on cue. I’ve noticed I’ll stay awake a little bit longer if I haven’t exercised.
How do you relax?
I just love going to a cafe and reading the paper, having a bit of me time or meeting someone for a coffee.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Naomi Klein, the author. I just love her books and I think she’s an amazingly interesting character. A few politicians as well, so I could ask what their agenda is on the climate-change front. And Sonia O’Sullivan.
What’s your favourite smell?
What would you like to change about your appearance?
I’d just hope that I can maintain my athleticism, maintain a fit and healthy body.
When is the last time you cried?
Recently, when I was reading an article a husband wrote who had lost his wife to cancer. It was a very positive article but so heart-wrenching.
What traits do you least like in others?
When people don’t have a can-do attitude. Negativity that stops people getting up and going, having a load of excuses.
What traits do you least like about yourself?
My inability to remember people’s names.
Do you pray?
No. I’m not a religious person but I would be a spiritual person. I would stop to take a moment and realise what’s around us.
What would cheer up your day?
A little act of kindness, whether it’s me doing it or somebody else doing it.
- Interview by Esther McCarthy