ONE of Eilish Flanagan’s former coaches, Vivian Grimley, is looking forward to watching his former protege making her ‘dream come true’ at the Tokyo Olympics this weekend.
Having been involved in the Gortin woman’s fledgling athletics career at Sacred Heart College, Omagh, Grimley, who was keen to praise local athletics coach Conor Moore for his part in her early development, has watched with pride as Flanagan has flourished at Adams State University in Colorado, where she became an American champion earlier this year, to becoming an Olympian.
But on Saturday night/Sunday morning, during Eilish’s Olympics debut in one of three women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase heats, he admits that he’ll probably be as nervous as the 24-year-old.
“We haven’t stopped talking about it since she qualified and I’ll tell you, the nerves are going to be bad!,” he admitted. I was up watching to 4 o’clock the other night and it wasn’t even anyone I knew so I don’t know what it will be like on Sunday.
“It’s so surreal and it’s been fantastic to have been a small part of her journey but I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’m watching her lining up in the actual Olympics.
“It’s a dream come true for her and she’s worked very hard for it but it’s down to herself, it has taken a lot of courage, determination and passion to get this far.”
Eilish’s journey to the Olympics, which culminated with a fine final run in Switzerland, thanks to help from Finn Valley AC’s Patsy McGonigle, just three days after finishing second at the Irish Championships, didn’t start with such heights anywhere near anyone’s mind.
In fact, the first time she pulled on an athletics vest was to fill space in a Sacred Heart College team alongside her twin sister, Roisin, herself a top class distance runner.
“It’s so hard to believe because one time we were heading to the E-Districts and we were stuck for a couple of girls and Sharon [Vivian’s wife] noticed those two [Eilish and Roisin] and we called them over and told them to bring in their gear the next day because they would be running for the school!,” he explained.
“They were brought in to fill space and Eilsih didn’t even qualify from the E-Districts, but she got the bug and it’s fantastic that she has kept it up and she is reaping the rewards big time now.”
Vivian and Sharon had signs made and have sent Eilish a good luck video on behalf of everyone at Sacred Heart College, which they hope will help her on Saturday night/Sunday morning during her heat at approximately 1.40am.