11 MAR 2006 General News Moscow, Russia

Tears of frustration turn to gold for O’Rourke

Derval O'Rourke of Ireland in action on her way to gold in the 60m Hurdles final (Getty Images)Derval O'Rourke of Ireland in action on her way to gold in the 60m Hurdles final (Getty Images) © Copyright

Despite an undefeated record in six competitions this season, Derval O’Rourke arrived in the Russian capital as an outsider, largely a little known quantity outside domestic circles. After achieving ‘Lucky Seven’ in Moscow, the 24-year-old from Cork will certainly be an outsider no longer.

“I was nervous,” O’Rourke admitted, “but everything was okay.”

‘Okay’ is somewhat of an understatement to describe the Irishwoman’s Saturday afternoon and evening in Moscow. She lowered her own national record twice in her three races here to where it now rests, at 7.84, the second-fastest performance in the world this year. By any measure, a long way from the 8.02 with which she embarked on what would turn out to be her breakout season.

“It’s hard to believe I’m a World champion. I’ve been working towards it all season and I can’t believe it’s happened.”

Even prior to this season, O’Rourke showed signs of promise. A semi-finalist at the World Indoors in 2003 and European Indoors in 2005, she first dipped under 13 seconds outdoors at the European Junior championships in 2003. A week after reaching the semi-finals at the World Championships in Helsinki last year, O’Rourke hit the road for Turkey where she won a pair of bronze medals at the World Student Games – in her specialty and as a part of the Irish 4x100m relay quartet.

Keeping the faith

After a brief break, her road to Moscow passed include a winter training stint in Portugal where she worked with Coaches Jim Kilty and Sean Cahill. The pair worked on the hurdler’s technique, initially a very frustrating process.

“I was working very hard, but I couldn’t get it right,” O’Rourke said. “There were only two-times I was brought to tears while working with Jim,” she said, explaining the frustration she felt.

When Kilty departed Portugal, Cahill simply told his charge: “Don’t worry, have faith.”

And faith she had.

Heading into the weekend, O’Rourke set four national records in the 60m Hurdles this season, before adding two more today. In her last outing before Moscow, she beat a high caliber field in Lievin, slowly building the confidence she would need in her pursuit of a podium spot in Moscow. She built on that confidence as the competition progressed. “I became more confident in every session and finally thought that I could win.”

Prize money plans

While her training is assisted with a national grant of 12,000 Euros, she also works as a sport administrator at Dublin City University to help make ends meet.

“The job is great because they’re very flexible,” she said. “Some weeks I work eight hours, some weeks I work 30 hours.”

But even that hasn’t been enough, and she’s been forced to borrow money from her father who has enthusiastically supported her career. With a winner’s paycheck of $40,000 coming her way soon from the IAAF, the financial strain will be eased, while dad will apparently be extra pleased.

Her plans for her prize money?

“Maybe I’ll pay back some money to my dad.”

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF