The incomparable Sonia O’Sullivan is ready to make another incredible comeback at this year’s World Cross Country Championships in her home country, just three months after giving birth.
Ireland’s greatest athlete is back training and has been pre-selected for the team for the event which takes place in Dublin on March 23-24.
It is the 30th running of the event and it is full steam ahead for the Irish city to stage the Championships, 12 months after they had to sacrifice it to Ostende in Belgium after the foot-and-mouth crisis.
O’Sullivan, 32, who won two golds at the 1998 World Cross title in Marrakech, Morocco, gave birth to her second child, Sophie, two days before Christmas but she is determined to make a full return just as she did after her first daughter Ciara was born.
Liam Hennessy, spokesman for Athletics Ireland who are staging the Championships, said: “It is quite incredible but Sonia is that type of athlete. I would imagine each time you make a comeback it becomes that bit harder but Sonia has shown what strength she carries.
“She did it before and she is ready to do it again. She has probably not competed since last spring but she has so much determination that she has her sights set on the event. Nothing seems beyond what Sonia seems she can do and it will be fantastic to have her in the team.”
It was in Boston almost nine years ago when O’Sullivan made her debut in the World Cross and finished seventh.
But her most memorable performances came in 1998 when she won the short event of 4k and repeated the feat over 8k, the only woman to achieve such a double.
Then she transferred her talents to the track to win both the 5000m and 10000m at the European Championships in Budapest that summer.
It was another superb achievement, particularly as her victory in the 10k came in her debut at the distance on the track.
After the birth of her first child in 1999, she said: “People think that having a baby has made life difficult when it comes to my running. But that is not true at all.
“An athlete can train for only so many hours in a day and sometimes in the past, it was a real problem knowing how best to fill the time between training sessions. But not anymore.”
O'Sullivan was regularly been seen training while pushing a buggy with Ciara in it.
O’Sullivan’s presence will add further spice to what could be a spectacular women’s race as Britain’s Paula Radcliffe defends the 8k title she won in Ostende last year.
In 1998, Radcliffe was beaten by O’Sullivan by just three seconds as the Irish star won in 25:39 and with the presence of Ethiopians Gete Wami and Derartu Tulu in Dublin this year, it could be a superb tussle.
The 30th IAAF World Cross is taking place at the Leopardstown racecourse in Dublin and also pre-selected for the Irish women’s team is Ann Keenan Buckley, who was 40 at the start of the year and first competed in these Championships in 1985.
Mark Carroll and Seamus Power have been pre-selected for the men’s team.