Sonia O’Sullivan, arguably Ireland’s greatest ever athlete, will celebrate her 50th birthday by being honoured with the Hall of Fame award at this year’s Irish Life Health National Athletics Awards on Thursday November 28th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown.
O’Sullivan, who turns 50 on the day, has so many accolades that it’s easy to forget how good she was with each passing year. She sprung to prominence as a 17-year-old in Killenaule to win the national senior cross country title. Asked that day what her ambitions in the sport where she answered shyly: “to make the Olympics.”
She more than achieved that ambition making four Olympic Games with a famous silver medal in the 5,000m in Sydney in 2000. Among her achievements are three world titles (5,000m on the track in Gothenburg in 1995, double world cross gold in Marrakech in 1998), and three European gold medals on the track. Her star was truly global having also won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year and the Golden League (now known as the Diamond League).
The nominations have also been announced for the Irish Life Health awards ceremony which is a celebration of the many successes of Irish athletes during 2019 and commemorates the exceptional volunteer base who are the bedrock of the sport. The Athlete of Year will be selected from the athletes named as winner of the U20, U23, Endurance and Track and Field category.
The youth continue to inspire and grab the attention of the media and the nation. Kate O’Connor (St Gerard’s Dundalk), Sarah Healy (Blackrock) and Darragh McElhinney (UCD/Bantry) all bagged medals in their respective events at the European U20 Championships in Boras, Sweden. O’Connor and Healy both won silver in the heptathlon and 1500m respectively while McElhinney won bronze in the 5,000m.
The European U23 Athletics Championships saw two more medals with Eilish Flanagan (Omagh) winning silver in the 3,000m steeplechase and Nadia Power (Dublin City Harriers) bronze in the 800m.
Athletics continues to highlight its gender balance naturally on the competitive stage with the women holding equal footing with their male counterparts.
Ciara Mageean (City of Lisburn) had one of her finest seasons to date with a 10th place finish in a red hot 1500m final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha and a bronze medal at the European indoors in Glasgow in March.
Thomas Barr (Ferrybank) and Mark English (UCD) are also in the running for track athlete of the year – Barr was 11th overall in the 400m hurdles standings at the world championships while English won bronze over 800m at the European indoors.
On the endurance end Brendan Boyce (Finn Valley) put in an inspirational performance to finish 6th in the men’s 50km race walk in the searing heat along the Corniche. Fionnuala McCormack (Kilcoole) finished 18th in the world cross country championships and finally showed some of her true potential over the marathon finishing fifth in Chicago in 2:26:47. Both are in the category for Endurance Athlete of the Year.
Other awards that will be presented on the day include, Club of the Year, Services to Coaching, Lifetime Services to Athletics, Official of the Year, and many more.
Athletics Ireland CEO Hamish Adams said: “The National Athletics Awards provide the association with an opportunity to acknowledge the clubs and the volunteers who play a vital role in to the development of athletes and the sport in Ireland. I would like to congratulate all the award nominees, and also offer a big thank you to all our athletics family who contribute so much and so often.”
Liz Rowen, Head of Marketing of Irish Life Health commented: “Irish Life Health is delighted to once again support the National Athletics Awards. The awards give us the opportunity to celebrate sporting excellence in Athletics, as well as recognise volunteers who work tirelessly to give both children and adults the chance to take part in athletics and be active.”
U20 Athlete of the Year Nominations
Sarah Healy Blackrock
Kate O’Connor St Gerard’s Dundalk
Davicia Patterson Beechmount Harriers
Aaron Sexton North Down
Darragh McElhinney UCD/Bantry
U23 Athlete of the Year Nominations
Eilish Flanagan Omagh
Nadia Power Dublin City Harriers
Ryan Forsyth Newcastle
Endurance Athlete of the Year Nominations
Brendan Boyce Finn Valley
Fionnuala McCormack Kilcoole
Kevin Seaward St Malachy's
Alex Wright Leevale AC
Track & Field Athlete of the Year Nominations
Thomas Barr Ferrybank AC.
Ciara Mageean City of Lisburn
Mark English UCD