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'I just felt weird... It wasn't exactly how I wanted to feel on the podium'

Dubliner Nadia Power’s bronze medal at European U23 championships wasn’t exactly a straightforward one.

Nadia Power (left) with Eilish Flanagan after their double medal haul.
Nadia Power (left) with Eilish Flanagan after their double medal haul.
Image: Athletics Ireland/Twitter.

TALK ABOUT A roller coaster of emotion.

From the most exhilarating high to the lowest of gut-wrenching lows, and back again; Dubliner Nadia Power had a day she won’t be forgetting anytime soon at the European U23 championships two weeks ago.

The most important thing, however, is that she can now call herself a European U23 800m bronze medallist after Swede success in Gavle. Perhaps it’s even sweeter now, given all that happened.

Power lived up to her name and produced an outstanding two laps in the showdown, battling bravely down the home straight to cross the line in third place.

Obviously ecstatic that she had medalled and oblivious to all else around her in the moment, little did the 21-year-old know what was just around the corner.

She was about to come face to face with a nightmare situation; disqualification for a supposed obstruction.

“I only found out I was disqualified about 10 minutes after so I kind of had the picture with the flag already, did an interview and I was delighted,” a now-relieved Power tells The42. ”I had done a bit of celebrating already.

“One of the officials called me over and was like, ‘You’re disqualified’. This was after the placing had come up on the screen and everything, me as number three. Disqualified me, so that was an awful feeling. I just couldn’t believe it.

“I didn’t even know at what point in the race I had done anything, or what it was for.”

With everything well and truly up in the air, Power was left to endure an anxious 90-minute wait. Fortunately, two Athletics Ireland team managers took over the case and followed the appeal process but this meant the Templeogue AC star was properly left in the dark.

It was a far from pleasant experience, she frowns.

While she refused to watch the race back during that time, she learned of what happened and was told details of the incident in question. Like any other, a lot of the race is pretty much a blur but Power was afraid to watch any clips incase she spotted a definite breach.

(The incident in question occurred at the 1.05 mark of the clip above)

“It was really, really horrible,” she admits. “They delayed the medal ceremony and everything.

“What had happened was I was disqualified for having impeded, or pushed, another athlete with one lap to go. It was quite a slow, tactical race and we were all kind of on top of each other.

“One lap to go, it was just typical championship racing, really. The girl who ended up winning, Jemma Reekie, kind of cut across the front of me and I put my hands up to hold my ground and hold my position. That’s what the disqualification was for, as if I ‘pushed’ her.”

It was a really horrible time, of course, but Power was lucky to have support from far and near on her side.

Her own team-mates and coaches were there for her but not only that, reinforcements came from much further afield: England’s Reekie one of many who was more than happy to help.

“We were lucky then, as part of the appeal the team managers actually went to her and were like, ‘Look, we don’t want to have to argue that you kind of got in the way so she pushed you, would you be able to just stand up for Nadia?’

“She was like, ‘Of course, I didn’t feel anything’. She went to the appeal, so it was really nice that British Athletics and their coaches backed it up like that.

“I’ve watched it since, but I didn’t watch the race back in that 90 minutes of the appeal because I was just like, ‘I actually don’t want to see it. I was just blinded in that time. Everyone was kind of telling me, ‘No, you have such a good chance of winning the appeal. It’s not bad at all, it’s ridiculous that you’re disqualified’.

“I had other countries come up to me. A Slovakian coach came up to me, and the girl who came fourth was Slovakian so she’d have got the bronze with me disqualified. He said that it was completely unfair and I deserved the bronze medal.

“That showed that it wasn’t really fair, it was just one track judge’s opinion.”

power Power arriving home to Dublin Airport. Source: Athletics Ireland/Twitter.

Thankfully, the bronze medal was reinstated upon appeal, and it topped off a super Saturday for Team Ireland at the championships, adding to Eilish Flanagan’s 3,000m steeplechase silver.

They also came as Ireland’s first medals in the competition since 2011, so it was an unforgettable day all around, really.

Surely getting on the podium as the rightful bronze medallist was all the sweeter then?

“Definitely,” she nods, with a slightly nervous laugh, “I was still a bit shaken, to be honest with you, on the podium.

“I just felt weird. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to feel on the podium. I was just waiting for someone to come out from behind the tent and grab the medal off me!

“But it was an amazing feeling after. I was really lucky that all the Irish people stayed late because the competition was over, the ceremony was delayed but they all stayed late and cheered for me on the podium. It was really nice.”

Nine days later — we spoke on Monday — it has definitely hit home, but it’s all go at the moment so Power hardly has a minute to fully reflect.

A Marketing student in DCU, she’s currently on an internship with Johnson & Johnson in Tallaght, so she was straight back into that afterwards and her focus has now switched to National Championships this weekend.

But it’s definitely all sinking in during another hectic summer.

“It’s been surreal enough,” she beams. “I’m working a full-time so I was straight back to that after Sweden. It was just kind of a hectic week. I guess I was processing it but not fully.

“I think watching the U20 juniors this weekend and just seeing how difficult championships are to medal in, how the rankings are always turned completely upside down made me that bit prouder that I did what I did.”

It’s a golden time for Irish athletics at the minute, particularly so in the youth ranks, with underage talent excelling week in, week out on the world’s biggest stages.

It must be pretty special to be a part of that, and something Power takes even more pride in.

“Really, really good,” she interjects, barely able to keep her elation in. “It’s actually so exciting — especially middle distance women’s at the minute.

“Sarah Healy medalled [at European U20 Championships on Sunday], Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner is running so well, Ciara [Mageean] is running well, myself, Claire Mooney ran some really good times last year.

“It’s actually just uplifting and nice to see us all just pushing each other on. We’re all really friendly to each other, we all want the best for each other.

“It’s just upping standards and showing that you know what, Ireland used to compete and be really competitive internationally in middle distance events, and we can get back to that again. There’s a lot of hope for the future, I think.”

Considering the stellar achievements of late, that’s definitely bucket loads of hope. And Power herself has been riding the crest of that wave and can definitely count herself as one of Ireland’s most-improved athletes this year.

“It’s been great,” she beams — but insists that the credit for her encouraging improvement must go elsewhere.

“It’s definitely down to my coach Enda Fitzpatrick. I moved to him two and-a-half years ago now, at the start of 2017 when I went to DCU.

“I’ve literally just got better and better every season. The move that I made in transition from last summer to this summer; that 800m really clicked, training’s really, really clicked this year. It’s such a good feeling but obviously it’s down to him.

nadia Power leading a field. Source: DCU Athletics.

“I think I’m just enjoying it a lot at the moment, enjoying DCU so that’s just made it all really positive.”

The enjoyment factor is a huge thing. If you enjoy something in life, nine times out of 10 you’ll succeed at it. And when things are going well in other areas, that positivity generally filters through across the board.

With all good off the track, Power is reaping the rewards on it. 

“Definitely,” she nods. “I’m on an internship for the year now, but the set-up is just really suiting me in DCU. I live at home, I have my training on campus, the gym’s on campus and I’m driving over.

“I’m enjoying my course, but placement is nice at the minute.  It can be difficult enough with the training and stuff but I’m just going to have to make it work, I guess. 

“I think that’s why… outside of running, life is working. It’s all working and fitting in nicely, and producing feel-good results on the track.”

Power will be hoping for another one of those this weekend at National Championships, where she had intended to compete in the 1500m. “Back to my roots,” she smiles, because of course, she’s run that distance all her life.

She laughs that she ran one good 800m last year and that’s how the switch-up came about. It’s definitely paid off though.

But a late change sees her stick with 800m for today, and she’s ready to go again; primed to let her enjoyment shine through as she faces a strong field in her in-form distance.

“I feel so energised after last week and just so excited about athletics going forward through the season,” Power concludes.

“I’ve been disappointed after other years so I’m just happy to be enjoying my running at the minute and chasing fast times.

“It’s easy to race well when you’re feeling positive and enjoying athletics.”

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Emma Duffy

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