Ciara Mageean started off her running career in football boots. Now the Portaferry woman is a world class athlete, winning medals at major championships, breaking Irish records held by the great Sonia O'Sullivan and relishing the prospect of competing at the Olympics in Tokyo next year.
The 28-year-old is also the best craic. Ciara's passionate, fun and honest post-race interviews with RTE's David Gillick, a super athlete himself, have become as compelling and enjoyable as her performances on the track.
Speaking in her role as ambassador for Lidl's Sport For Good initiative, Mageean admits she didn't always show her true self to the public but reveals there is no going back now, which will please her growing multitude of fans.
"After the World Championships and other races last year it took me by surprise at how people responded to my post-race interviews. I think it was maybe a change in me as a person that I realised I'm doing this sport and I want to enjoy it," explained Ciara.
"I felt that I had to show some sort of professionalism when I got in front of a camera delivering a performance and I had to be very regimented in how I did it, and in the past maybe I didn't let the true Ciara shine through.
"I couldn't hold it back after the World Championships (where she finished 10th in the 1500m). David Gillick knows me well and I'm usually throwing up on his shoes after races. His interview showed me bouncing and delighted with the performance and it taught me to just be yourself, and it is a lesson for anyone out there.
"I was taken aback by the level of support after that. Throwing in a few local colloquialisms when I'm speaking full-on Norn Iron I think people found it hilarious.
"I'm proud to be where I'm from, I'm proud to be Irish, I'm proud to be from Northern Ireland and I'll continue to not try to mask the true Ciara when I'm in front of a camera."
Now viewed as an inspiration on and off the track, the middle distance star adds: "I go into my sport to be the best that I can be and if I can inspire people around me and hopefully inspire a young generation to find a love for activity and sport that would make me happy.
"You don't have to be competing on a world stage. You could just pick up something that means something to you. I still enjoy picking up a hurling stick and smashing a ball against the wall. That's a release for me and I find enjoyment from it.
"Being an ambassador is important and the Lidl campaign ties in with what I want to do to encourage people to be active and to find joy in being active and take care of their health physically and mentally. To be able to work with Lidl, who are so generous in giving away £3,000 to 40 schools, is absolutely brilliant. This is a campaign close to my heart."
Come next year thanks to her sparkling personality and ability, interest across Ireland in Mageean at the delayed Olympics will be huge.
She already has bronze medals in indoor and outdoor European Championships at 1500m and has the class to reach the final at the Games. Ciara also has the qualifying time for 800m but may focus on the longer distance in Tokyo.
This is a lady who has come a long way from starting out in her sport as a teenager.
"I rocked up to my first few cross country races in football boots and when I got through to the All-Irelands I had to borrow spikes from a girl in my class whose dad owned a sports shop. I ran in borrowed spikes for a good year and a half and then my granny and grandad got my first pair of spikes," she recalls.
"Now I have another Olympics to look forward to after competing in Rio in 2016. The Games are the pinnacle of sporting performance so it's all eyes on Tokyo.
"The delay means I have an extra year to get stronger and better. I have had a fantastic winter block and I'm excited for the year ahead and I'm hoping to deliver some good performances."
Ciara did just that earlier this year when athletics and other sports were allowed to return during the coronavirus pandemic.
She became the first Irish woman to break the two-minute barrier for 800m and smashed former World Champion O'Sullivan's 1,000m best.
There was also time in September to come home from her Manchester base and cheer hometown Portaferry to glory in the Down hurling final.
She says: "When the lockdown finished and I finished the racing season I had planned to have a down period, get a Covid test and be able to go home to Portaferry. I usually get two weeks off a year and try to get home and was delighted my break coincided with the Championship because I got back to watch the lads.
"Lockdown presented its own challenges. It's hard enough not to be able to see family usually as an athlete because we travel a lot but not actually ever getting to go home to see my mum and dad, my brothers and sisters and my boyfriend was tough.
"Thankfully though I wasn't on my own because I am with other athletes.
"Athletics as a sport is quite individual so in lockdown you could go out for a run and being a middle distance athlete all I needed was a path really.
"Eventually some races opened up and it was fantastic being able to race over the summer and post some pretty good times and knock off some Irish records.
"That two-minute barrier for the 800m has been a monkey on my back for a long time. I always knew I was capable of it but to go and run it was fantastic.
"Sonia was a world class athlete and one of Ireland's greatest so to be up there rubbing shoulders with similar times as her is a good place to be and hopefully it is a sign of what's to come."