O’Connor took bronze in the individual show jumping at London 2012 eight years after winning a gold in Athens of which he was stripped soon after.
When asked if this performance was something of a vindication for all that had happened in Greece he said: “Absolutely. Coming off Athens and what happened eight years ago it was just good being able to come here and deliver on the world stage. I figure it was something special I could give back to the Irish public. We came here and our plan was to get to the Olympic Games and do as well as we could. To get here and deliver this performance is obviously a great personal satisfaction. But I hope that the people back home can really get some good out of it too.”
And so Cian O’Connor and Katie Taylor share the headlines this morning, a hero and heroine of Irish sport and Ireland.
“Katie Taylor is obviously the most famous and well-known and successful sportsperson in Ireland,” O’Connor said. “To be in the same sentence as her ... I’m honoured.”
O’Connor, 32, who served a three-month ban after his horse tested positive for a banned substance, was not even meant to be at this year’s Games.
Denis Lynch — part of a team suspended for the Beijing Olympics after his horse tested positive for a prohibited substance — was originally selected ahead of O’Connor.
However, Lynch fell foul of the authorities again last month when his horse showed hypersensitivity, though there has been no allegation of wrongdoing.
That earned O’Connor a reprieve and, amazingly, he had another yesterday.
After not qualifying for yesterday’s final, a rival horse failed an inspection and O’Connor’s Blue Loyd took its place.
O’Connor very nearly took full advantage, coming within two hundredths of a second of a gold medal jump-off before losing a jump-off for silver.
O’Connor said: “I feel it’s something special that I’m able to give back to the Irish public and hopefully it does something for the sport at home and encourages people to get involved.
“It’s certainly a very proud day for me and everybody involved with me.
“But I hope that others at home can reap the benefits also.”
O’Connor was oblivious to the fact he had won Ireland’s first medal of the Games, adding: “Obviously, I’m delighted about that.
“It’s been a whirlwind kind of trip to get to this stage.
“I was one place out from getting into the final today.
“But I think I was positive and optimistic myself last night and told my wife, ‘I think I’m going to get in and I think I’m going to jump clear’, and she was laughing at me.”
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