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'I said, 'No way, I'll be 42 years of age' and here I am, going to Tokyo - I can't wait'

Still without a National Indoor Velodrome on these shores, Eve McCrystal continues to break boundaries alongside Katie-George Dunlevy.

EVE MCCRYSTAL AND Katie-George Dunlevy undoubtedly form one of the greatest partnerships in Irish sport.

Eve McCrystal Eve McCrystal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The 2016 Paralympic gold and silver road cycling medallists have their names permanently etched into Irish sporting history, those Rio successes coming a little over three years after first meeting as complete strangers.

Last weekend, the dynamic duo came agonisingly close — 0.067 of second to be precise — to bagging yet another bronze medal at the 2019 Para-Cycling Track World Championships.

They were gutted, of course, but McCrystal’s astounding positivity still managed to shine through afterwards. Perhaps the new national record and personal best in their final event, the 1k time trial sprint, helped slightly.

“We will leave very happy with that ride. We have never gone faster and faster we will get,” she tweeted afterwards.

The week beforehand, the Dundalk star spoke brilliantly on a panel discussion as Sport Ireland announced their new Women in Sport policy. Between her hectic schedule as a 40-year-old mother of two, her career as a Garda and life as an elite athlete alone; one can imagine that she had plenty to delve into.

As MC Joanne Cantwell wrapped up the conversation, she naturally asked about the upcoming competition.

para How much Paralympic gold meant. Source: Sportsfile.

“We’re ready but I’d still love a velodrome in this country,” the pilot concluded, tongue-in-cheek, as the long wait for the facility drags on and on. With Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy in the front row, there was a bit of laughter as he assured once again that it’s coming.

“The medals we got last weekend goes to show you what we have,” she added, in the wake of the Track Cycling World Championships in Poland. “I’m not saying I’m not prepared but I would have been more prepared if we had a velodrome here.”

After Treacy was forced to address it once again in his succeeding speech, and all was said and done, McCrystal joined The42 for a quick chat before racing off for a physio appointment. And the velodrome, or lack thereof, was of course a hot topic of conversation.

“No, look,” she smiles when it’s brought up. “Look what Lydia Boylan did at the weekend. For a female in Ireland to do that, that was a massive, massive achievement.”

Just incase one needs a quick reminder, Boylan won silver at the Worlds in Pruszków earlier this month.

“For us even looking at Lydia, the motivation that that put in myself and Katie for next week, it’s huge. I know Lydia really, really well but that medal has just [made us say] ‘Right, let’s go’.

“If the velodrome was here, the opportunities that it would give children… it’s a safe environment to train in. We’re up against British girls who live beside the Manchester velodrome. Before you even start, you’re up against it. It shouldn’t be that way. 

lydia Lydia Boylan celebrating her recent success. Source: Guy Swarbrick.

“It’s time on the track. Look, as we heard earlier on, there’s one for 2020 so my children will avail of that, your children will avail of that and it will be great!”

Her positivity is infectious, her attitude an example for one and all to follow. Like anything in life, things can be difficult but she works with what she has, aided by the support of those around her.

“I always think that I’m the lucky one,” she smiles, as her mind wanders to everything and anything from balance to monetary issues to her lack of recovery — and indeed that lack of a National Indoor Velodrome.

“I never felt that inequality. I don’t see anybody being better than me. In my head, we’re all the same. We did fight a lot for our funding and we’re very, very lucky to get it and have what I have. I’ll make do with what I have. It doesn’t take away my passion for gold. It’s not something that I dwell on.”

Life goes on no matter what, with her focus firmly on Tokyo 2020. That’s her target at the end of the day.

The memories of Rio come flooding back. The aftermath. She stood at the bar with a glass of wine when all was said and done following the 2016 Games. What she thought then was the end. 

“I said, ‘No, I’m not doing it. No way. I’ll be far too old, I’ll be 42 years of age and there’s no way I’m going to Tokyo. And here I am — going to Tokyo, and I can’t wait. 

eve With her daughters after Rio. Source: Sportsfile.

“I think, mentally, I know what’s ahead of me. I don’t know whether I enjoyed Rio as much as I should have. It was my first time and nerves took over but I’m adamant that I’m going to enjoy Tokyo regardless of the outcome. Even though we want medals, I’m going to enjoy it. My kids are older so they’re coming with me. I can’t wait.”

She refers back to her Sport Ireland funding quite a few times through our conversation but it’s a God-given fact that without it, she wouldn’t be able to do what she’s doing. 

Raising two daughters and following a strict training regime, it will allow her to step back from work when 2020 Paralympic preparation heats up. For now though, it’s one step at a time.

“It’s just each day, doing what I’m told to do every day. I wake up in the morning like, ‘What am I doing? What is on the schedule?’ Do it, get it done, and hopefully it will all fall into place.”

And what exactly is a day in the life like? Early mornings, late nights?

“I’m not in bed late,” she giggles. “The unicorn pyjamas are on with the children and we all go to bed together.

para2 With Dunlevy in Brazil. Source: Sportsfile.

“I tend to get up early in the morning. If I can get a session done before the kids wake, that’s a major bonus. If I’m not working then I’ll go to the gym and then dinner, cleaning, collect the kids from school, the usual. There’s nothing exciting in my life.

“But if I’m working.. that’s a busy day.”


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Once can only imagine. 

The kids, Nessa and Ava, really are her pride and joy. They’re very different, she smiles. Nine-year-old Nessa is mad into sports while Ava would lean more towards music and books.

“Her 10 minutes on the guitar every night are as important as my hour and-a-half on the bike,” the proud mother beams.

“Now, she likes basketball but I don’t push her. Sometimes, she’ll say, ‘I’m not like you, Mam.’ I just have to be very wary of that: that I’m not making her do something that she doesn’t want. If she doesn’t want to do it that’s fine. But she can spectate.”

Either way, the visibility is key. 

And as she said before, when this country finally gets its National Indoor Velodrome, it’ll reap its rewards.

“You have to see it. The kids don’t know. My children see me on the bike so they think that this is absolutely normal for a mother to be on a bike. They have the stopwatch. When I’m doing an effort, they will start and stop. They don’t know any different.”

para1 Victory.

To round off an uplifting conversation, it seems fitting to close with a word for her partner in crime, Katie-George Dunleavy.

“We have a great relationship. We’re very, very different. She is so messy, I’m so clean. It drives me crazy! But then before a race, I’m so nervous and she’s so calm. It works. We’re different but we get on very well.”

That they do, and it works a charm.

Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne dissect Ireland’s disappointing Six Nations campaign, and discuss the pros and cons of rugby’s new law proposals in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:

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Emma Duffy

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