Home News Olive Loughnane – Congratulations

Olive Loughnane – Congratulations


from Athenry AC website Olive Loughnane’s monumental performance in last week’s Olympic Women’s 20KM Walk has somewhat flown under the radar when compared to the medal-winning performances of our boxers this past weekend. Her 7th place finish (our best result in the track and field arena – Rob Heffernan was 8th in the equivalent men’s event) around a rain-sodden Bird’s Nest is the culmination of many years hard graft and personal disappointment at major championships.

Absolutely no one could begrudge her moments in the limelight considering some of the obstacles she has successfully surmounted along the way, including a potentially career-threatening medical complaint involving her inability to absorb iron about 18 months ago. This was her third Olympics.

It is to my shame that I missed the race when it was televised live during the night but I was riveted to the 40-some minutes highlights on RTE later that morning.

It is probably fair to say that conditions suited her down to the ground: pouring rain greeted the athletes who lined up in the Bird’s Nest and remained a watery constant throughout the next 90+ minutes. If she had trained at all in Ireland over the last two months, she’s have been well acclimatised to conditions that day in China.

After the gun went off, the competitors proceeded to first walk over three laps of the track, then went up and down a boring two KM concreted (or slabbed) loop in the concourse of the hugely impressive stadium 9 times before scurrying back into the stadium and the relative safety of the finishing line.

The eventual winner, Olga Kaniskina, was out of the traps early and established an immediate lead, one which she didn’t relinquish for the rest of the race. Olive seemed to settle into the pack quickly, not to be seen again by the main camera for much of the next hour – outside of capturing her one and only yellow card for “lifting” after approximately 30 minutes of the walk :(. She seemed unperturbed by the decision though :).

She started coming back into focus after the hour mark as the walkers ahead of her started faltering; she also got stronger as the event went on. Olive said, in a live interview with RTE immediately after finishing, that she got her strategy slightly wrong in following the Australian who was third in Athens who didn’t have a good race in Beijing. Who knows what might have happened if she had pushed on a few KM sooner or if the race had been another two or three KM.

Olive really cut through the field over the last 5 KM and gained at least five positions during this time, so much so that by the time they came back into the stadium, there were three athletes fighting it out for 6th place. Olive eventually finished (87:45) a single second off 6th and a mere 33 seconds off the bronze medal (87:12). THIRTY THREE SECONDS in nearly 88 minutes walking.

Note that 87:45 equates to a ~92:00 for a half marathon, walking!

She took 90-plus seconds off her PB but still didn’t grab the Irish record which remains in the hands of her former team-mate, Kerry’s Gillian O’Sullivan.

Olive was very articulate afterwards in the aforementioned RTE interview – a somewhat unfair process given that the athletes being captured have just finished what is one of the most arduous physical ordeals of their lives, good, bad or indifferent. (After local road races, my mind can be total jelly for a good two hours!)

Gerry Kiernan was almost ecstatic in the RTE studio thereafter, telling onlookers about Olive’s training regime – 200KM weeks! TWO HUNDRED KILOMETRES! Fionnuala Keane (ex-Stalwart of our own Fields race) got honourable mention from the bould Gerry too.

Carrabane, Kilconieron & Clostoken, Loughrea AC, Galway and Ireland can be justly proud of your achievements, Olive. But mostly, you can be proud of yourself and what you achieved in Beijing last week.

Well done from all in Athenry AC.