Over 100 litres of High5 Energy Source, drank by the athletes ! This event is dedicated to Ireland’s leading female triathlete, Caroline Kearney who was tragically killed during a cycle training session with her French team in June of last year. Caroline was regarded by most in the sport as a certainty for the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and indeed London 2012. This would have made her the first triathlete to represent Ireland in the sport at the Olympic Games. With that ambition and her focus firmly fixed on the prize, Caroline had a system in place from 2005 to help her achieve this goal and had only recently arrived back in France to take up training with Montpellier Triathlon Team with whom she competed. It was in the village of St Raphael near Nice, on the coast road where a car collided with a group of cyclists. Caroline bore the full impact and died shortly afterwards in hospital. In this horrific split-second, the sport lost its best female athlete, a role model, inspiration and close friend to many, and Irish sport lost an outstanding female athlete. As Ian O’Riordan wrote in the Irish Times shortly afterwards, “The Irish Olympic Team for Beijing will now surely be one athlete short.” In an unprecedented move, the Olympic Council of Ireland headquarters flew flags at half mast, an honour usually reserved for former Olympians. On that occasion, it was the passing of a future one. When the idea of a memorial race was presented to Midland Triathlon, the club enthusiastically grabbed the opportunity to honour this singular athlete.
As with many triathletes, Caroline’s sporting career began in the pool alongside her sister Edith. However, it was always to triathlon that she was drawn and began racing at an early age. Families often show great sporting lineage. Caroline’s sister, Edith, was a national swimming champion and also competed internationally for her country in triathlon for many years until serious injury led to her sporting retirement, but not from triathlon totally, where she remained as Head of Selectors for several years. Ann Kearney, Caroline and Edith’s mother, was a pioneer of the sport of triathlon and became one of Ireland’s most successful elite triathletes with a host of awards and triumphs at national, international, European and World level. With this sporting pedigree behind her and the formidable raw talent and ability, Caroline shone through early on. A powerful cyclist in triathlon and for Swords CC, many will remember her gliding past them at an astonishing pace. At the age of 18 and while still a junior, she won her first National Triathlon Championship, a feat she repeated in 2001, 2002 and 2003. It was in 1999 that she began competing internationally at junior championships progressing to U23 and then elite level. This success was rewarded when French club, Cesson Sevigne, asked Caroline to join them and compete in the French League in 2004. In 2005, she joined Montpellier Triathlon Team for the summer and with Beijing beckoning, she based herself with Col Stewart, a world renowned coach, for winter training on the Gold Coast in Australia. With the support of Sebastian Locteau as her manager, Caroline re-joined her Montpellier team for the 2006 season. Her last race was the European Championships in Autun, France where she posted one of the fastest swim times and finished 29th in a world class field.
Her sudden death at the age of only 24 has been a massive tragedy for everyone in triathlon in Ireland, her friends and her family. Caroline’s talent and determination was clear to everyone who met her. The love of her sport, voracious appetite for training and her positive attitude were awe inspiring to all. As a result, she earned the love and respect of people all over the world as is paid testament to in countless postings on the internet at the time of her passing.
This race is a memorial to both Caroline the person, and the outstanding athlete she was. The race is in its first year but we hope that it will become a much looked forward to event in the Mullingar sporting calendar as well as the Irish Triathlon program. Midland Tri encourages all lovers of sport in Westmeath to come and support the athletes on the day and bring a festive atmosphere to the shores of the lake and to local towns the race will visit. Keep an eye out for further details.