Fears bet scandal may scupper O’Rourke’s Olympic hopes

One of Ireland’s top athletics chiefs admits to having concerns about Derval O’Rourke’s readiness for the Olympic Games following a betting scandal involving boyfriend Peter O’Leary.

Kevin Ankrom, high performance director of Athletics Ireland, said he has not spoken to the Cork hurdler since news broke last Saturday that Mr O’Leary had allegedly bet on sailing events in the Beijing Games four years ago, a contravention of Olympic rules.

Mr O’Leary is currently competing in the Men’s Star Class along with David Burrows in Weymouth, while Ms O’Rourke is due to begin her Olympic campaign in the 100m hurdles on Monday morning.

Mr Ankrom said he is unsure how the controversy, which has raged in the media for the past week, will impact on the 31-year-old former world indoor championship winner.

Mr Ankrom said: “Everyone talks about Derval as a championship performer, but surely at some point things get to you. She’s the type of person, she’ll come here and either she’s on and she’ll hit it or she won’t.

“Hopefully she comes in and there haven’t been things that have gotten to her head and she can put it all away and put it on the track. Unfortunately I don’t see another four years, another Olympics [for her]. So it’s all or nothing at this point in time for her.”

Mr Ankrom also expressed concerns about Ms O’Rourke’s decision not to join up with her Olympic teammates in recent weeks, with the majority of athletes at a holding camp in Teddington alongside St Mary’s University, Strawberry Hill.

“She’s coming straight from Dublin so we haven’t seen her. All the other athletes have been here.”

Mr Ankrom admitted Ms O’Rourke’s plan “makes me nervous. Maybe I may not have a lot of interaction with the athletes but I want to see where they’re at, where they are going. It also helps me to adjust and helps them moving forward to the next meets, the next big championships.”

But Mr Ankrom believes such camps can also allow competitors to be insulated from any outside influences.

He explained: “This is why we try to get kids in the bubble. When I’m over here, we’ve got them in camp, they are in the bubble. We can regulate the media, and it’s nothing negative, but there are times when you can talk and times when we want to keep you away from it.

“The Olympic Village is certainly an area where you can just box yourself away.”

More in this section