Olympic silver medallist and former world champion Sonia O’Sullivan was honoured in her native Cobh yesterday when a statue was unveiled in her honour.
However, instead of basking in the the limelight, the unassuming athlete sourced an umbrella for two soaked children.
Sonia, 45, thanked the people of the Cork town for turning out in their droves amid torrential rainfall for the unveiling. She said she was apprehensive about having a statue commissioned in her honour but ultimately felt it was a tribute to all those who had supported her over the years.
“This is a really special day for me,” she said. People ask what does it mean to me and how do I feel about it? It is a difficult question to answer because it isn’t really about me, this statue.
“This statue is about everyone who has supported me — everybody who has got me to this point in time.
“It started for me just a normal little girl running through the streets of Cobh, walking to school and back every day. The people of Cobh were always there for me.”
Sonia thanked local businesses who had contributed when she needed to travel away for events. She said that it did not matter whether she was in Cobh or not going forward, as “a little piece of her’ would always be in the town courtesy, of the statue.
Sonia advised the children present at the unveiling to follow their inspiration and that there was everything to be gained from them “setting goals high and chasing dreams”.
County mayor John Paul O’Shea congratulated the Olympian on her many achievements claiming that a hitherto unknown talent of Sonia’s was her cycling ability.
“I was down at the Rebel [Cycling] Tour in Glengarriff with Sonia and she left me for dead,” he said. “Sonia is a fantastic ambassador for Irish sports.”
Sonia was joined at the unveiling by her husband Nic Bideau and the couple’s two teenage daughters, Sophie and Ciara, who took snaps of their mother on their phones as she unveiled her life-size image.
Extended members of the O’Sullivan family including her parents Mary and John also attended.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved