In a garden marquee at the end of a cul-de-sac on Cork’s northside, a small crowd gathered to witness something that was once the improbable aspiration of an injured athlete.
Bryan Keane’s dreams of making it to the London Olympics in 2012 were dashed two years previously when a cycle in the French Pyrenees ended in what the triathlete has wryly described as ‘a kiss with a car’ and a shattered kneecap.
Nearly six years later his loved ones and friends sat inside the tent lined with pictures of the Leevale athlete and Tricolour bunting to celebrate the long rehabilitation that led to Rio and the realisation of a lifelong ambition.
The large TV inside the tent only briefly switched its attention from the triathlon to relay the heroics of Waterford hurdler Thomas Barr, but the screen was otherwise occupied with images of the 50-plus athletes taking on the swim, cycle, and run to the finish line.
After learning to run again, the 36-year-old was the oldest athlete to take part in yesterday’s triathlon, and amid the cheers as he crossed the finish line, his mother Margaret revealed that her pride in her son was matched only by relief that he had finally achieved his goal.
“I’m relieved it’s all over,” said Margaret.
“He was injured, then he got back, this was huge for him, to make the Olympics.
“He was hoping for a top-30, but I think he messed up in the transition with his helmet, he lost the group ahead of him then, and then he was catching up after that.
“But he finished 40th — we’re delighted for him,” she said.
Even after getting over what could have been a career-ending knee injury, Keane has also had other afflictions to battle in an attempt to make it to Rio de Janeiro.
“He even had difficulty last year because he had achilles problems, so to make Rio was something else. We’re thrilled for him,” said Margaret.
“To have an occasion like this, to have all our friends over, and to have a Rio party was great,” she said.
A table next to the tent proudly displayed Keane’s collection of trophies and medals, accolades bearing the names of far-flung locations such as Huatulco, Ishigaki, and Kedzierzyn-Kozle.
Alas, the next time the stall is set out, those honours won’t be joined by any medals from Brazil.
However, the collection of pictures will undoubtedly be joined by a photograph of the once unlikely sight of Bryan Keane crossing the finish line as an Olympian.
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