The triathlete knocked from his bike by a wild stag during Dublin City Triathlon (DCT) has been given a fairytale ending, after learning he will get to represent Ireland at the 2017 World Championships.
A picture of Shane O’Reilly in mid collision with the stag in the Phoenix Park has become an internet sensation, with outlets as far away as the US covering the dramatic scene.
Picture credit: Erik Scraggs
The thirty-year-old had been hoping that his performance in the Olympic distance triathlon would be enough for him to qualify to represent Ireland at the Age Group world championships in Rotterdam, but in the end he fell just outside the automatic qualification criteria - largely due to the time lost by his crash.
After careful consideration however, Triathlon Ireland has informed Mr O’Reilly that he has been chosen to represent Ireland by way of the Selection Pool system, which allows the national governing body accommodate athletes who have the potential to qualify but who were able to reach the standard for reasons outside of their control.
Speaking after learning of the good news, Mr Reilly said he was delighted:
“All’s well that ends well I suppose, the accident wasn’t fun but it will be a great story to be able to look back on in 30 or 40 years and say that happened to me. And at least I know there will be no wild animals in Rotterdam.”
Triathlon is unique among mass participation sports as it permits age group or amateur athletes compete against each other while representing their countries. Ireland is planning to send at least 100 triathletes to the Age Group World Championships in Rotterdam in September 2017.
The top three athletes in their age groups at Dublin City Triathlon qualified automatically, which meant that Mr O’Reilly just missed out on an automatic place.
“I ended up finishing 6th in my age group and when I looked at the other times in my age profile, 3rd place was 4mins ahead of me so I probably would have made the automatic qualification if I hadn’t crashed.”
The amazing moment of the collision was captured by photographer Erik Scraggs who was watching the race when he saw the herd of deer approach the road. Within 24 hours, the resulting sequence of pictures had made their way on to some of the world's largest news, including the BBC.
Pictures credit: Erik Scraggs
Shane O’Reilly said it wasn’t until Monday morning - the day after the race - that he realised he was the subject of an international news story.
“I didn’t sleep well on Sunday night so I went for a walk on Monday morning, I got up at 5:30am and somebody sent me a picture saying ‘I just saw this online’ and I thought, ‘that’s crazy’, it just made it real. Then in work I had to go into a meeting and when I came out I had about 12 missed calls, my phone was just lit up.”
Mr O’Reilly, from Dublin, has been taking the media attention in his stride and says the crash was “just one of those things”.
“It’s crazy but if there’s a positive, it’s that it shines a light on the sport and the event. I can’t say enough about how good the race was, everything was great, the race team after they really made sure I was ok and it’s an incredible sport to have that level of organisation. I can’t praise it enough,” said Mr O’Reilly.
While Shane can now make plans for his appearance at the World Championships next year, he is going to have to hold off on the training for a few weeks, as he has been advised to rest up and let his injuries heal.
“My shoulder is quite badly bruised and I had an operation on it previously from a rugby injury so I need to stop swimming and let the swelling go down. It looks like my season is over for now.”