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Sophie O’Sullivan looks back on a brilliant summer

Irish middle-distance runner bounced again from disappointment to exceed expectations

Sophie O’Sullivan’s brilliantly surprising season got here to an in depth in September with a sequence of non-public greatest occasions, most notably an Irish under-23 3000m document of 8:44.72, the third-fastest ever by an Irish athlete behind Mary Cullen (8:43.74i) and her mom, Sonia O’Sullivan (8:21.64). It was a becoming conclusion to a summer time of unbelievable highs impressed by the briefest of low factors.

Finishing twelfth in June’s NCAA 1500m ultimate wasn’t a part of the plan. The University of Washington athlete, who had considerably diminished her private greatest to win the West Regionals in May, had been a severe contender. It wasn’t to be. “Picked a s*** day to have a s*** day,”  wrote the self-deprecating 21-year-old on Instagram within the aftermath.

Her speedy response – to take most factors on her senior debut for Ireland within the European Athletics Team Championships (division three) and to win European under-23 1500m gold – says as a lot about O’Sullivan as an individual because it does about her as an athlete.

“I decided I was going to put my head down and really try hard to make something of my season. I wanted something good and I was going to get it,” says the 2018 European under-18 800m silver medallist.

“I felt like I wanted to win on the European U23s. There was only a minute on the NCAAs the place I form of misplaced focus. One minute is just not who you’re, however I didn’t need individuals to assume that when there’s a giant stage, or a giant competitors, that I simply can’t do it. It was good to show round and be like, ‘That’s not true, I’m not a headcase!’

Sophie O’Sullivan (Getty)

“A friend of mine said to me recently, ‘I think everything happens for a reason’. I usually don’t like that saying but in some sense I think maybe they were right. If I hadn’t had that [NCAA disappointment] then maybe I’d have been happy enough with my season and then I’d have been like, ‘Well, do I even need to come over to Europe?’. I mean, I’d have still come, but it all came together.”

Throughout the summer time, O’Sullivan’s inventory rose sharply. Her 4:07.18 PB on the European Under-23 Championships was quickly obliterated with a 4:02.15 within the heats of the World Championships in Budapest, an occasion that hadn’t even featured in her preliminary 2023 summer time plans.

With alternative got here perception, and with perception got here outcomes that far exceeded her personal goals and expectations.

“Once I made the [World Championships] team, people were telling me I could definitely make it out of the heats if I gave it a good crack,” she says. “People talk like it’s possible, so you start to believe it yourself.”

O’Sullivan can have one other shot on the NCAAs. Now in her fourth 12 months learning journalism, she credit Huskies coach Maurica Powell for her continued help, from negotiating a tricky freshman 12 months (“I probably wasn’t doing as much as I needed to be doing”) to this summer time’s prolonged competitors season in Europe. She has discovered rather a lot within the interim.

“You realise [when you go to college] that you can’t get by on nothing anymore, you have to actually try, you have to really train hard,” she says. “I believed I used to be coaching onerous, however I didn’t realise there was extra I might do.

“That’s the largest lesson I’ve discovered over the past 12 months or two – I’ve realised there’s extra I can do. Even this 12 months, I did extra, however on the finish of the season I used to be like, ‘I’m nonetheless not doing all the pieces I might do; I believe I might accomplish that
a lot better’.

“It’s just kind of funny how it all shifts. With the Worlds, at first I was just happy to go, but then I wanted to make it out of the heats. I was really happy to run a PB, but at the same time I wanted more than that. Next year, I’ll definitely try and make it into the semis in Paris, but I want to see if I can go one step further. You’ve got to dream big.”

» This function first appeared within the September subject of AW journal, which you should buy right here

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