‘I’m not gonna lie, I still get nervous,’ said Ciara Mageean at yesterday’s press conference ahead of tonight’s AIT International Grand Prix in Athlone.
Mageean, whose season got off to a flier when she set a new Irish 1500m Indoor record at the World Athletics Indoor Grand Prix in Boston in January, will bid for another Irish record when she competes in the 3000m.
Ethiopian 3000m Champion Kasanesh Buze is expected to push Mageean hard for the win along with Camille Buscomb (NZL), Kriistina Maki (CZE) and Rosie Clarke - all of whom are sub 8:55 athletes.
The 27-year-old from Portaferry is delighted to be back in Athlone as she looks to step up her preparations for Tokyo: “My preparation’s been great so far. I had a fantastic training camp in Albuquerque. In Boston, I ran 4.06, a new Irish record, which is always a good start to the year. I’m hoping I can continue on in a similar vein here in Athlone.”
Mageean singled out President of Athletics Ireland, Professor Ciaran O’Catháin for organizing the event: “I don’t think many people appreciate how important it is for Irish athletes to race on Irish soil, and I know there’s been big investment to make this into a meet that we can earn more points from. We are so grateful, with all of us trying to make Olympic qualification and take that step forward.
“There’s been a financial cost to take that step up. I’m lucky enough to have my Olympic qualifying time (QT) but other Irish athletes don’t, so it gives them an opportunity to step forward and try to reach their QT and gain higher points.”
She previously spoke about her struggles mentally, so I asked her if she still dreads ‘race day,’ as she put it: ”I’m not gonna lie, I still get nervous, but I think that’s something all of us here would probably agree with. You get nervous but it’s how you handle those nerves, and definitely, in the past, I absolutely dreaded race day. I told the line, ‘I wanted the ground to open up beneath me.’ It’s something that I’ve worked so hard on, to improve my mental state around racing and really see it as a privilege and a joy to be out there.
“I have a team-mate who had a really bad injury last year, ruptured her Achilles tendon, and I know she would give her right arm to be in the position I’m in. Sometimes it’s things like that which puts life into perspective and makes you realise that yeah, I’m really lucky to toe this line.
“Don’t get me wrong I’m still going to be nervous. You’ll see me before the race, I probably won‘t say too many words, but I’ve learned to love racing and hopefully I’ll continue to do so for as long as I toe the line.”
Sport Ireland recently announced their athlete funding for 2020, of which €40K went to Mageean. Mageean explains how important that funding is to an elite athlete in Ireland: “I actually get to be a full-time athlete, to compete full-time and to put all my focus into being the best that I can be.
“I want to be there in that Olympic final, to be racing in the final with an Irish vest on my back. I came tenth in the World’s last year and I want to go and try and do better at the Olympics. I get to focus fully, fund camps, to live in Manchester and be a full-time athlete.”