INPHO/Donall Farmer Ailis McSweeney: ready for a busy couple of weeks.
London 2012
Introducing... our Olympic expert for the London track action: Ailis McSweeney
The Leevale athlete is expecting strong performances from the likes of Derval O’Rourke and Fionnuala Britton.

LET’S GET TO know each other, shall we?

Ailis McSweeney is the current Irish record holder in the 100m. After an injury-disrupted build-up to the Games, the trained barrister won’t be in London this month and will instead analyse her team-mates’ performances for RTÉ as well as writing for

Here’s what we can expect on the track in Stratford.

What are your hopes for the Irish athletics team?

My main hope for the team is that each of the 20 athletes who compete in London will walk away happy with their performance. This will mean different things for different athletes. There is potential for personal and national records to fall, for final places and for top 10 finishes in the longer events. Of course, I hope for a sneaky and unexpected medal that will give Irish athletics something to celebrate

What are your expectations?

I think I should align my expectations with my hopes! Otherwise what’s the point!?  I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations so it must be said that we don’t have a medal favourite among the team.

Generally, which athlete should we keep an eye out for and why?

It is too hard to narrow this answer to one athlete, but I’ll keep it as brief as possible.

  • Robert Heffernan (50k walk) — Rob seems hungrier and more focused that ever.
  • Olive Loughnane (20k walk) – Olive has done it before at a World level and has performed well in warm-up competitions.
  • Derval O’Rourke (100 hurdles)  - Derval has a killer instinct for the big race and a point to prove at Olympic Games level.
  • Fionnuala Britton (10,000m) – Fionnuala will want to be the first European over the line after a fourth place finish in the European Championships in June.
  • Joanne Cuddihy (400m) – Joanne is going in under the radar but she may be in the best shape of her life.

Apart from your own event, which one are you looking forward to most and why?

The women’s 100m hurdles. Lining up in the heats will be the reigning Olympic champion (Dawn Harper), the darling of the Olympic Games who fell in 2008 (Lolo Jones), the British import (Tiffany Porter), the world leader and reigning World Champion (Sally Pearson), the athlete who beat Pearson in her last race (Kellie Wells) and our own Derval O’Rourke — what’s not to look forward to!?

How tough will it be to watch the Games from Donnybrook?

I guess it shouldn’t be too difficult because they have plenty of TVs over there. Seriously though, I’ve had to make my peace with not qualifying for the Games. For most of the qualifying period I was either running through pain or walking with crutches after achilles surgery. There was not a lot I could have done differently.  It will be some consolation to have an involvement in a small way.

What’s your favourite Irish Olympic memory?

My favourite Irish Olympic memory is of Sonia O’Sullivan winning silver in the 5000m in Sydney. I had seen Sonia’s disappointment in Atlanta when she was one of the favourites. In Sydney, I think everyone was just praying for the race to go right for her on the day. I remember despising the little ice-queen Gabriela Szabo, who seemed to be the opposite of everything our Sonia was. Although I wished for an Irish gold that day, looking back on the results I see that Sonia set a new national record that day that still stands. She obviously gave everything for the Olympic medal she deserved so much.

Sonia O’Sullivan cross the line behind ‘ice queen’ Gabriela Szabo in 2000. Pic: INPHO/Billy Stickland

What’s your favourite international Olympic memory?

Usain’s Bolt’s 100m and 200m victories in Beijing are my favourite international moments of the Games. In the 100m, the sheer audacity of being able to celebrate with 30m to go was just incredible. I have seen it replayed so many times now and it never gets old for me. It was such a naive thing to do, something I think Bolt would never do now, even if he had the luxury of being so far ahead again. For the 200m world record, it was less his run and more seeing the reaction of Michael Johnson that stays in my mind. Johnson really didn’t think his record could be broken. His shock mixed with the excitement of seeing someone just run so fast was a great moment to have been caught on camera.

YouTube: da24cool

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