Inseparable on their tandem bike, and now, by quirk of fate, inseparable for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two weeks before the country went into lockdown, Katie-George Dunleavy arrived into Dublin airport from her hometown of Crawley.
The paracyclist, who competes for Ireland, and her tandem partner Eve McCrystal were pencilled in for an engagement camp at the Institute of Sport in late March, with Dunleavy having flown in early so the pair could get some work done on the road before their presence was required in Abbotstown.
The camp, of course, never went ahead.
The sporting shutters were pulled down across the globe, the Olympics and Paralympics were eventually postponed, but instead of returning home to the UK where her elderly parents are cocooning, Katie-George decamped to Dundalk where she is currently residing in McCrystal’s spare room.
And so far, so good.
Instead of any fallings out or nerves wearing thin, the pair, who won gold and silver medals at the Rio Paralympics, say the last six weeks spent in each other’s pockets has strengthened their partnership.
“I operate an open-door policy,” begins McCrystal. “I love people around me so, to be honest, I prefer that she is here. The two of us were always close. We didn’t know how we’d manage over a number of weeks together, but we are both very easygoing. We are a motivation for each other through these times.”
The latter is a sentiment very much shared by Katie-George.
“Eve has welcomed me into her house, and we just work so well together. It has brought us closer. We are getting to know each other a bit more even though we already know each other so well. It is just a different scenario and environment for us at the moment, but we are getting on and we are motivating each other. We are both so driven. It never stops for us, now more than ever.
“There are times where I am probably a bit homesick and struggling a little bit, but on the whole, I am good. I am making the most of my time here.”
McCrystal’s two kids are also in the house so between homeschooling, training on the watt and turbo bikes, gym sessions in the garden, and meal prep, it has been all go this past month and a half.
“There is nothing else going on bar getting up the kids, school, training, eat, sleep, and repeat. I think it has benefited us massively. The days are flying by, especially with the kids,” says Eve, who acts as Katie-George’s sighted pilot.
“I am that wee bit older (41) and I am always conscious of that. I am probably the oldest that will be in Tokyo [in our events]. I am thinking, ‘oh God, am I going to slow down?’ That is always in the back of my mind. What the last number of weeks have shown me is that I have actually gotten stronger again. It is not slowing me down because of the rest I am getting in between the sessions, rest that I wouldn’t have gotten before.”
The pair won a silver medal in the women’s tandem pursuit race at the UCI para-cycling track world championships earlier this year. They were tipped to make the podium at Tokyo this summer. Postponement is being viewed as an opportunity more than anything else.
“We are improving and we are hoping to carry on improving,” says Katie-George in conversation with Paralympics Ireland.
“The silver was fantastic and we were hoping to build on that. Tokyo being moved, it is the same for everyone and it just gives us more time. We are going to carry on improving and trying to get stronger and fitter.”