Carolyn Hayes produced a swift final leg in the women’s triathlon in Tokyo this morning to finish 23rd at her first Olympics, the Limerick athlete clocking a 34:43 10km run to finish in 2:02:10, six a half minutes behind Flora Duffy, who won Bermuda its first ever gold medal at the Games.
It capped a fine debut on the Olympic stage for the 33-year-old Newcastle West native, who only took up the sport in her mid-20s and who had previously represented Ireland at water polo.
“I’m happy enough with the performance,” she said. “I came for a better result but given where I came from the last few years I have to be happy with it. The Olympics is the pinnacle of sport and I always hoped I’d get here, I probably didn’t believe I would. It’s a bit surreal.”
After a chaotic, delayed start to the race in wet and windy weather, Hayes found herself towards the back of the field as she entered the first transition, but she gradually picked her way through the pack on the bike and was even more impressive on the run, clocking the 10th fastest final leg in the field.
She put her medical career on hold in 2018 to train full-time with the goal of reaching the Tokyo Games, and Hayes has progressed rapidly in the years since, winning World Cup silver in Kazakhstan in 2019 and finishing sixth at Europeans. In 2021 she was second, behind former Olympic champion Nicola Spirig, at the World Cup in Lisbon and 10th at the World Championships.
She said she was extremely grateful for the support received from afar in recent days.
“The phone has been inundated with messages and it means an awful lot,” she said. “I want to say a big thank you to my parents and my family – without them I wouldn’t be here today.”