TWO of Ireland’s most high-profile athletes, David Gillick and Derval O’Rourke, have warned the Irish public are aiming “a little too high” in terms of medals ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing next month.
Gillick, who won gold in the 400m at the European Indoor Championships in 2005 and again last year, has warned that barometers other than medals will need to be used to gauge Irish efforts in China this summer.
“The way the Olympics is, I personally feel that a lot of the public only wakes up to athletics every four years.
“They are always looking to see who will win a medal, not just in athletics but with the whole team.
“There will be people there who are medal hopes but, to be honest, maybe we are just aiming a little bit high when it comes to medals and things like that,” Gillick explained.
The Dubliner pointed to last year’s World Athletics Championships in Osaka where the Irish team recorded a number of personals bests and national records as a more realistic example of what would constitute a good Games in August: “We had never had that before and that’s what we have to build on. Overall, if we could have a good team performance, that alone would be brilliant for Irish sport.”
His words mirror those of Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy, who believes six finalists or its equivalent would represent a good performance.
“As a country we got very spoilt having someone with the calibre of someone like Sonia O’Sullivan doing what she did for so many years and obviously winning an Olympic medal,” added hurdler and former World Indoor 60m champion Derval O’Rourke.
“That is why the public has this perception that, when we don’t win a medal, it is a disaster.
“She was just an absolutely phenomenal athlete and she set the bar so high.”
Both were quick to stress that, whatever transpires in Beijing, the world will still turn.
The European Indoors and World Championships are just around the corner in 2009, reminded Gillick, although he agreed that the Olympics is the one event where everyone wants to bring their ‘A’ game.
“If you were to talk about all the greats, I am sure that they would be Olympic champions and Olympic record holders but I am sure that there are even greater athletes who didn’t win Olympics.
“Usain Bolt commented on that. He didn’t care about records. All he cares about is if he is remembered as an Olympic champion. That’s just the way it is. It is the Olympics, one of the world’s biggest sporting events.”
Both Gillick and O’Rourke got their summer seasons underway last week with encouraging runs, the Corkwoman recording a sub-13 second effort in Germany while the Dubliner managed a respectable 45.65 in Geneva.
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