World race-walking silver medallist, Olive Loughnane was crowned The Irish Times/Irish Sports Council ‘Sportswoman of the Year 2009’ today for her performance at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin earlier this year.
The 33- year-old was presented with her award by Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Martin Cullen at a gala awards ceremony in Dublin where 14 other sport stars were recognised for their outstanding achievements throughout the year.
Renowned camogie sisters, Angela and Ann Downey received the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for inter-county careers, spanning 23 years, in which the pair garnered 24 All-Ireland senior medals.
Loughnane took the silver medal in the 20 km walking competition, finishing just 49 seconds behind defending champion and Olympic gold medallist Olga Kaniskina of Russia, who won in one hour, 28 minutes and nine seconds.
Olive is only the fourth Irish athlete ever to have won a World Championship medal, joining Eamonn Coghlan (gold in 1983), Sonia O’Sullivan (silver in 1993 and gold in 1995) and Gillian O’Sullivan (silver in 2003), also in the 20 km walk.
“I am delighted to be selected as Sportswoman of the Year and it is an enormous honour to be in the company of other sports stars like Katie Taylor, Derval O’Rourke and Mary Cullen”, said Olive of her award win.
“It is a great way to round off a very successful sporting year for me. When I came home the crowds that turned out at Loughrea and Coachford were amazing. The World Championships was a significant step for me and has given me the confidence I need for the next two years, in looking forward to London 2012”.
In 2008, Loughnane enjoyed success at the Beijing Olympic Games, with Ireland’s best result in track and field when she finished seventh in the 20km walk.
This is a huge victory for the Galway athlete who suffered a chronic iron deficiency following the birth of her daughter Eimear three years ago.
Twins Angela and Ann Downey were awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for sporting careers that spanned from 1972-1995, a career that saw each one decorated with twelve All-Ireland senior medals.
Both were a part of the team that enjoyed Kilkenny’s first ever All-Ireland senior success in 1974. The sisters were part of the famous seven-in-a-row winning team, from 1985 to 1991, at a time when Kilkenny proved invincible.
Each of them has captained their team to All-Ireland senior success; Angela captaining on three occasions, with Ann leading the team twice.
Angela Downey said: “Ann and I are delighted to be given this award today. It is very flattering to be recognised after years of retirement from the sport. It’s particularly special that we are rewarded jointly, having soldiered long and hard on the pitch together for twenty three years! It’s only now that we can look back and fully appreciate what we have achieved in our camogie careers.”
Other high achievers commended at the awards included Katie Taylor, who retained her European Union Championship in June, Squash star Madeline Perry who reached the final of the British Squash Open in Manchester and Leona and Lisa Maguire, teenage twins from Co. Cavan, who won the award in April and May respectively for their successes on the golf course.