Two UK-based Irishwomen honoured at Sportswoman of the Year Awards
Ellis O’Reilly was the first woman to represent Ireland in gymnastics at the Olympics while cyclist Katie-George Dunlevy won gold and silver at the Paralympics.
Ellis O’Reilly and Katie-George Dunlevy capped off tremendous years of sporting accomplishment recently, as they were honoured at The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year Awards in Dublin. Eighteen year old Ellis O’Reilly, who created sporting history in 2016 when she became the first woman to represent Ireland in gymnastics at the Olympic Games, received the Sportswoman Award for April.
The Londoner finished in the top half of at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow to win a place at April’s Olympic Test Event in Rio, and from there she earned her place in the Games. Ellis, whose Armagh-born grandfather qualified her for Ireland, squeezed that all in while studying for her A-levels.
Katie-George won the Sportswoman Award for September along with her pilot Eve McCrystal after the duo’s tremendous performance at the Paralympics in Rio where they took gold in the Road Time Trial and silver in the Road Race. Crawley native Katie-George and McCrystal, from Jenkinstown near Dundalk, contributed handsomely to the Irish tally of four gold, four silver and three bronze.
Their achievement was all the more impressive given the pair only raced together for the first time in April 2014. After a very promising debut, coming fifth at the Track World Championships in Mexico, they were hopeful there were good times ahead and they definitely delivered on those hopes in Rio.
At the age of eleven, Dunlevy was diagnosed with the eye disease, Retinitous Pigmentosa (RP). RP is a chronic hereditary eye disease in which abnormalities of the photoreceptors of the retina lead to progressive visual loss. Her achievements are all the more notable given she only took up cycling five years ago, having previously rowed for Great Britain.
Established in 2004, the aim of the Sportswoman of the Year awards is to recognise the abilities and achievements of women in Irish sports.
Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy, who was the August winner, was crowned The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year for 2016.
Murphy, from Dublin, displayed tremendous courage and skill to bounce back from the disappointment of a 4th place finish at the London Olympics in 2012 to claim silver in Rio. Her success was Ireland’s first medal in sailing since Moscow 1980. One of Ireland’s greatest ever runners’, Sonia O’Sullivan, who won silver at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport Award 2016.
The guest of honour Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald highlighted the award winners’ role in encouraging women to participate in sport.
“Every woman here today is a role model and an inspiration. And I know they will continue to be role models, not just throughout their sporting careers, but afterwards, hammering home the message that activity is good,” she said. “That team sports teach us to rely on others and be worthy of the reliance of others. That solo sports require a fierce continued dedication. That activity is its own reward.
“All of those things are important to women and these awards are a marvellous and elegant way of celebrating success and sharing that success.”