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'Mam is from Kilkenny and Dad is from Sudan. I'm sure they got comments when they got together in the 90s'

Nadia Power says she hopes people are more educated about racism in Ireland.

IRISH ATHLETICS TALENT Nadia Power knows that conversations about racial issues can’t be at the forefront of our minds everyday.

irish-life-health-mile-challenge Irish athlete Nadia Power. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

The Black Lives Matter movement began in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in America, and quickly became a global effort. From an Irish sporting perspective, Power was among those who contributed to vital conversations, by sharing her experiences of racism in Ireland with the public.

But in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, momentum was bound to slow up at some point while other news items took over. The symbolic significance of black screens on phones could only last for so long.

Power understands how these things go. Her hope now is that people have become more educated about racism and will know how to react when this issue comes up again.

“I’ve had some conversations with my friends, even received support on social media,” she says. “That left me feeling really hopeful.”

Power is still an emerging talent on the Irish athletics scene. It’s almost a year since she won a bronze medal in the 800m at the European U23 Championships, an achievement she was made to sweat for when she was told that she had been disqualified shortly after passing the finish line.

At the time, Power was believed to have impeded, or pushed, an athlete during the race. An appeal followed — which was successful — and the bronze medal was reinstated to the Irish athlete.

Qualification for the Tokyo Olympics was in Power’s sights this year. She made an encouraging start towards that goal by scooping the gold medal in the 800m at the National Indoor Athletics Championships in March.

It was her first national senior title. The Covid-19 shutdown disrupted her progress but the postponement of the Tokyo Games gives her another year to push for qualification.

Her stock is certainly on the rise as she continues to flourish in an Irish singlet.

There’s plenty of supportive voices out there but the waters are murky on social media, and Power recently said that her mother warned her not to read comments under articles about her.

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She can still remember getting that friendly warning.

“Yeah, I’ve seen it over the last few years over other Irish athletes who have won medals and seen nasty comments. It’s really common in other sports. Once I’ve been on the internet, I’ve seen it.

My Mam, she’s from Kilkenny and my Dad is from Sudan, when they got together in the early 90s, I’m sure they got a lot of comments so I’m sure she’s hyper aware, as any mother would, looking out for me.

“I’ve never talked publicly about anything other than me being an athlete and my own personal case. It was an interesting time for me being in the media supporting such a big movement.

I am proud, I was able to share my voice. Anything I’ve added had value and I’ve got some support back. It made me think, it is I have more to bring to the table than just running certain times.”

The International Olympic Committee [IOC] recently reiterated its stance on political protests at the Games, saying that athletes are still banned from such actions at the Tokyo Olympics.

Power understands the IOC’s decision to take a more neutral stance on these issues, but feels they should have waited before making the call to double down on its position. 

“I guess it isn’t something thought of myself but I respect the athletes that I’ve seen do that and maybe be a bit disappointed to see how they got a bad reaction about it,” says the Templeogue native.

I think it was kind of mad that the IOC put out that statement last week, I just think it was really tone deaf.

“There was no need for that to be declared at that time when we have seen athletes taking stances, the Olympics is next summer, it wasn’t the right time for it. I’ll always support a protest like that definitely, if it’s people being treated equally.

“But at the same time, I see why the IOC do need a stance on it, because you can’t have every single athlete protesting every single thing – everyone has different beliefs.”

Nadia Power was speaking at the launch of the Irish Life Health Mile Challenge. The weeklong challenge to find out the fittest and most active club and county starts on 17 August. 

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