Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Aileen Morrison can make big splash at Olympics

Aileen Morrison prepares for her big day in the triathlon at the London Olympics and nothing will get in the way of her training programme

Aileen Morrison is one focused lady. Determination oozes out of her. So do words. The 30-year-old from Londonderry can talk 10 to the dozen.

And she's worth listening to, speaking with genuine passion about what it takes to attain sporting excellence.

Anyone out there with sporting talent but lacking the desire and attitude required to make the grade should book a session with Aileen. She'd put them right.

Morrison, based in Lisburn, will be competing for Ireland in the triathlon in the Olympics.

London's calling is of course a major event for the Sports Institute Northern Ireland (SINI) athlete, but unlike others who see it as the ultimate, Aileen insists the Games won't make or break her.

“Everybody wants to talk about the Olympics,” she says.

“Yes, it's fabulous, it's an amazing achievement to qualify and represent your country in the Olympic Games and I am really excited and super enthusiastic, but it's one race every four years.

“In our sport anything can happen on the day and there are so many variables. I'm a little nervous about putting all my eggs in one basket and saying this race is going to be the be all and end all of my career because it's definitely not.

“What I really what to achieve is being consistent through the year and deliver good performances in all three of my disciplines all the time.”

For those not too familiar with the triathlon, those three disciplines are swimming 1500m in open water, a 40 kilometre bike ride and a 10 kilometre road run.

Oh, and that's on the same day in quick succession.

It's a gruelling, tough sport, requiring a huge amount of dedication and training.

Woe betide anyone who gets in the way of Aileen's intense preparation, which on a weekly basis can include six swims, five bike rides, eight runs, gym sessions, physio and a massage. “I'm addicted to my training, but that's the way it is. People in my situation are,” she says.

“Elite level sport requires a different mindset. It's a bit like an obsession.

“A kid pooed in the pool one day and I missed my training session. I was never as angry in my life.

“One other day there was no one about and I was wondering if training had been cancelled and I decided I was getting in anyway and if someone thought they were going to stop me they had another think coming. That's the way I am and that's how people at the top end of sport think.

“This is what I do, this is my life, my living, it's what I work at and I need to be training to be the best I can be.”

Morrison is now in the top 10 female triathletes in the world. That's some achievement for a woman who only started to take the sport seriously in her late teens and early 20s.

“When I was 24 I did some triathlons and in 2007 I won the National Championships. That year I was invited to a Triathlon Ireland Development camp and met my current coach Chris Jones and it sort of spiralled out of control from there,” reveals the big movie fan.

“When I first met Chris he said that I had talent and ability and that I could really improve.

“I thought how can I greatly improve because I thought I was quite good at the time?”

She did improve to such a level that she is now an outsider for a medal in London.

Aileen’s typically honest take on that is this: “I could do 10 races over one season and half of them will be good races and in the other half I will think I could have done better, so for one day at the Olympics I need everything to go right for that to be my best race.

“To say I'm not capable of getting a medal would be a lie. I know I'm capable of competing with the best in the world.

“It's not impossible, but that would be me having everything go right on the day and with a little bit of luck on my side and me being at my best so we'll see. Realistically a very good position for me would be top 10. I wouldn't be too disappointed if I was top 15, but if I could finish top five that would blow my mind.”

Morrison's sporty family, who enjoyed many happy summers on the beaches of Donegal, will be in attendance in London including big sister Ruth who Aileen names as the person who inspired her when she was younger.

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