herald

Tuesday 26 March 2019

I'm the one who pipped Sonia – mum-of-2

THIS is the woman who beat Sonia O'Sullivan to the gold medal in her first marathon.

Over the weekend, Theresa O'Hanlon returned to the scene of her 1984 glory to see her own girls compete at the HSE Community Games finals.

Until now Michaela (13) and Caoimhe (11) knew nothing about their mother's win over the woman who went on to become Ireland's most successful female athlete ever.

The Monaghan mother-of-two has rarely spoken about beating O'Sullivan into second place in the first women's marathon at the Community Games.

"There was an appeal on the radio a few years ago to find the person who beat Sonia but I wouldn't ring in," Theresa told the Herald.

She explained how it was no big deal at the time because she had no idea who O'Sullivan was. The real prize was getting to compete at the finals, which were held in Mosney.

"I had been six years trying to get out of the county competition to get to go to Mosney. I came second or fourth every other year.

"[Taoiseach] Garret FitzGerald didn't even know how to present the medal. He handed me the cushion and everything," she laughed.

 

Festival

Now almost 30 years later, she still volunteers with the Community Games and was back at the finals to see her two daughters taking part, along with 3,000 others.

Michaela collected a medal for fourth place in the under-14 long jump, while Caoimhe took part in the under-12 600m.

Speaking ahead of the festival, O'Sullivan told how the Community Games helped her set her sights on world and Olympic success.

"The ultimate, though, was heading off on the train to Mosney for the all-Ireland finals. I still have my little accreditation pass, just like what you get in the Olympics for access to all you need," she said.

Children between six and 16 from all over Ireland have spent the past three days at Athlone Institute of Technology taking part in track and field, culture corner, Gaelic football and hurling, tennis, soccer, spikeball, variety shows and more.

Dr Nazih Eldin, who represented the HSE at the event, said the Community Games is an "absolute phenomenon that we must not only nurture but also treasure".

She added: "We have a lot of problems with drugs and smoking, but the majority of children are living a healthy lifestyle."

The HSE Community Games is in its 45th year.

Other former participants include rugby stars Tommy Bowe, Ronan O'Gara and Sean O'Brien, soccer star Niall Quinn, actor Colin Farrell and pop stars Una Healy and Shane Phelan.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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