Crawley-born Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal secure gold and silver for Team Ireland
One of the Paralympics biggest Irish success stories was the double medal haul by partially sighted cyclist Katie George Dunlevy and her tandem Eve McCrystal.
The pair started off with a gold medal in the Women’s B road cycling time trials last Wednesday, after teammate Eoghan Clifford secured gold in the C3. They finished half a minute ahead of all their opposition to win their Paralympic title in a time of 38.59.22.
Afterwards Katie said: “That’s the first time I’ve heard that, Paralympic champions. Sounds nice, I’ve been dreaming that for a long time, dreaming of that for the last four years since London.
“We’re over the moon, ecstatic, I can’t describe how I feel.”
The Crawley-born cyclist, who qualifies for team Ireland through her Donegal native father John, initially took part in rowing before a coach spotted her talent. She was born partially sighted but was not diagnosed until she was eleven, and with the support of the family was determined to achieve sporting excellence.
“It could have been poor Katie but I wanted to be positive. My dad used to drive me to sports all the time, nothing was too much and I felt like I could achieve anything I wanted to.
She and McCrystal had a disappointing start to the Games as they went without a medal in their opening two events, but having stated that the indoor velodrome was not their best shot at a medal knew that it would be on the road where they would shine, having had an impressive streak of form in competitions all year. On Saturday, they claimed their second medal – a silver in the Women’s Tandem Road Race.
The pair put in a committed performance in tough conditions, that was actually shortened from 90km in distance to 75km after a crash on the route in an earlier race delayed the start of the event. They put themselves towards the front of the race to keep the pressure on their opponents, and to help secure Ireland’s fifth cycling medal at Rio 2016.
“It was altogether until the steep climb, we stayed to the front,” she said after the race which forced them to re-assess their tactics due to the change in distance.
“Neill Delahaye told us to ride the climb at our pace. We are not the kind of bike that will respond to attack and repeat attack on the hill, and our own pace happened to match the best climbers.
“We were just with them, there was a break up the hill and a break behind us. We worked well to stay with the Poles on the steep clumb, but on the descent she just pushed it too much for us.
“She’s raced with us enough so she knew if she pushed she’d get back. We kept fighting the whole way and we’ll take our silver.
“We’re absolutely exhausted. It was a hard race, probably one of the hardest races I’ve done but we’re ecstatic.
“We came into it with the pressure off us but we were both nervous, we wanted to do well and show what we can do because we love road racing.”
The pair said that they would enjoy the celebrations before giving any longer-term thought on Tokyo 2020.