The most vocal of those offended by the new statue of Sonia O’Sullivan have been urged not to judge the piece on a photo finish.
The online reaction to the statue’s unveiling has been mixed, with some claiming it bears little resemblance to the Olympic silver medallist and former world champion, while others have hailed it as a fitting tribute to an Irish sporting heroine.
Hendrik Verwey, chair of Cobh Tourism, yesterday acknowledged some of the online criticism but said that those who have seen that statue in person have come away with a different opinion to those judging the bronze work, based solely on photographs circulating online.
“It’s very clear to anyone who has actually seen the statue that it is 100% Sonia,” Mr Verwey said.
He said the piece, unveiled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sonia’s gold medal-winning performance at the 1995 World Championships, was best seen from a side profile.
Meanwhile, Sonia herself has said she was involved in the year-long process to create the statue.
“It was nice to see that it looked pretty good when it was standing up because when it was lying down last week it didn’t look too good. I was a bit worried,” Sonia told Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio 1.
“I was slightly worried yesterday because there were a few people threatening to put a Dublin jersey on me.
“It was a year ago that James [McLaughlin, the artist behind the statue] convinced me that it was a good idea, even though the idea was there for a while and the people of Cobh got behind it, businesses, schools, so many different community groups fund raised so that this would happen.”
Sonia also believes that the work is best appreciated in person.
“You’re not supposed to look at it too closely,” she said. “It’s a piece of art, you have to stand back and get a good look at it and then you can see what it is supposed to be, the significance and symbolism of it.
“It’s not supposed to be an exact replica of me. I think it’s a kind of image of me and an artwork of me, so it’s a reflection of a happy memory of me that people like to recall and they were there yesterday.
“It brought back a lot of memories for me and for all those people.”
Sonia did, however, concede that the bronze colour of the statue combined with her racewear leaves little to the imagination.
“When you look at it, it doesn’t look like I’m wearing much, does it?” she said. “It’s like you’re standing up there in your underwear.”
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