West Waterford Athletic Club Juvenile Notes
Like most people who are spending more time at home at the moment I have been doing some decluttering. During the week I came across a video of what was the most exciting day in the history of West Waterford Juvenile Athletic Club. Having rerun the video I decided to pull out the report I wrote of that day and repost for those who remember it to relive it and to remind those who were too young to experience it that it’s important to dream big and follow your dreams.
The Day Kate Veale Ruled the World
What a Day to Remember one spectators account by Mary Ashe
Woke on Friday morning with butterflies in the tummy. The big day has arrived; we wonder how Kate is feeling this morning. A quick text to Bro Lennon to wish him well. Out of our hotel by 9am, and Clions and I eat breakfast on the run as we head to the Metro station. We have it all worked out, one change and we are on our way. As we get ready to jump off the metro it sails by our station, it’s closed for renovation. Never mind, we just get off at the next one. Up on street level we use our cupla focail of French to check we are headed in the right direction. Yes says the passerby about a twenty minute walk. No problem we have plenty of time. Any other time we might admire the sights and sounds of Paris but today we are thinking only of the race. At last we are at the Gare du Nord, no platform number up yet for the train to Lille. It’s up at last and we head to platform 14. Soon the train is flying through the French countryside. A quick text to Brid to let her know we are on our way and to enquire how Kate is. Reply soon comes back Kate is in good form and just wishing now it was time for the race to start. An hour and five minutes after we leave Paris the train pulls into the station at Lille. We decide it might be a long evening and so better get something to eat. We head for the nearest cafe. In typical French style they take ages to bring the food. There are lots of athletes and coaches milling about. We spot some from Russia, Tunisia, Mexico and the Ukraine. The athletes are easy to spot; they all have their numbers pinned to their backpacks.
We are soon back on the metro. There are posters everywhere giving directions so no problem there. We meet some Americans on the train and decide to head to the stadium with them. We are lucky to meet them they tell us, as the first day out they got lost five times trying to find the stadium. It’s a short bus ride from the metro station to the stadium. It’s not open yet but we queue for tickets. We want to be in early and get a place near the front so Kate can hear as we shout her on. We are soon in and settled right in the middle of the home straight. There is a big gap and a fence between us and the track, nowhere to hang the flags; we’ll just have to wave them. We are right beside the VIP section, only a railing divides us. We festoon the railing with green white and gold bunting. We spot Brid on the far side of the track near the start line. We spot the other Irish walker Evan Lynch beside her in his green tracksuit. We guess James is around somewhere with the camera. We spot a lone Irish flag on the far side of the track. Someone who looks a lot like James is standing behind it; it has to be his brother Eamonn. We also see the rest of the Irish gang down near the finishing line. We’ll stay where we are; better to have people all round the track. We taking a passing interest in the triple jump taking place in front of us but really we are watching out for the arrival of the competitors for the 5k walk. The weather is cloudy and overcast, no problem with heat and humidity today. It’s just before 4pm and they have arrived. We watch them come in on the big screen. It’s easy to spot Kate in her green track suit. The start list goes up on the board, 27 walkers, that’s a big field. There could be a lot of jostling at the start, very easy to trip or get swallowed up in that crowd. All the main contenders are there, the Italian Clemente who won in Singapore last year, the Chinese Yanxue Mao who had a blistering last lap to take second, the Russian Nadezhda Leontyeva who won in Moscow and the Ukrainian Alina Calchenko who led all the way in Singapore only for her legs to buckle under her with 200m to go. Kate strides down the back straight looking relaxed, its only minutes now to the start. There is a small flurry of rain just to make us all feel at home. It doesn’t last long.
They line up; because of the numbers it’s a staggered start. Kate is in the outside group in lane 5. They will walk outside the cones and join the main bunch on the home straight. We count ten in that group, that’s good we think less jostling there. The gun sounds and they are off. As Kate passes us on the first of the 12 and a half laps she is in third place. “Go on Kate “ we shout as loud as we can and wave our flags. Up behind us we hear another Irish voice cheering on Kate. Very soon they are round again and we cheer even louder. The field is bunched together. Next time round Kate has been swallowed up by the bunch and is boxed on the inside, not the best place to be we think. Kate’s brain is working just as well as her legs and by the time they pass us the next time Kate is on the outside again in the leading bunch. As they pass the 2k mark the field is beginning to string out. There are about 8 of them in a line and it’s obvious the medal winners are going to come from this bunch. Right there amongst them is Kate Veale who is making her way to the front of the group. She’s away !!!! The others don’t seem to be able to go with her. We cheer all the louder. As each lap unfolds Kate is striding further and further ahead, 30m, 40, 50. We see a judge on the far side issue her a warning. It does not slow her down. She is coming past us with two laps to go and she looks awesome, still increasing the distance between her and the rest of the field. We see a judge brandishing a card, but he shows it to the athlete Kate is lapping. We glance back and see that there is a ding dong battle going on for the minor places. As expected the Chinese girl is coming strongly in the latter part of the race and has caught up to the Russian and Ukrainian. Kate is too far ahead now to be caught by anyone. We hear the bell, only one lap to go!! We get ready to cheer her all the way to the line. She has done it, Kate Veale is WORLD CHAMPION. All the Irish supporters are on their feet applauding her. She stops for a moment and looks back down the track to watch the others finish, a hug from the Chinese and Russian athletes as they finish. She looks to the Irish supporters, a huge smile on her face. Someone throws her a flag. The television camera follows her as she is congratulated by all the Irish supporters lucky enough to be there on the day. We pull off our bunting and with an indescribable feeling of elation we head down to the finish line and the other Irish supporters. James is by her side, a cheer goes up as he lifts her into the air. If we could bottle this feeling we’d make a fortune. We congratulate Brid and then we spot her granddad Jim, we shake his hand. “What a girl” he says and we agree whole heartedly. He is wearing his Irish hat, the same one he wore back in 79 when John Treacy won the world cross country championships in Limerick. Those of us who were there that day too remember it and wonder that a small area like West Waterford could produce two world champions in the space of thirty years. We think of those who worked over the years with Kate, Tony Shalloe, Bro. Lennon and Jamie Costin and think what a pity they are not here to savour this moment. We remember we are supposed to text several people with the result. The text says just one word; we spell it out GOLD, that tells the story. Soon texts of congratulations are flying into everyone’s phone. We look to the big screen for the result; we see 21m45.59 that’s all we need to know she has smashed her own Irish record. She is the only one in the field to have gone under 22mins. The announcer tells us it’s the leading time in the world this year. This doesn’t surprise us, such was the pace she set that the first seven athletes across the line have all recorded personal best times. We marvel at the feat of this slip of a girl.
Kate finishes a TV interview and is ushered off to complete the post race formalities. We wonder about the medal ceremony. It is not listed on the order of events. Brid goes off to get Kate her gear bag and comes back with the news that it will be at 6.15. It’s almost that time already. Where did the last two hours go? We head back to our original space just opposite the podium. We meet up with the Lynch family. It was they who were up in the stand behind us cheering Kate. Frank is from Ballinameela and was a walker himself. His son Evan will go in the boys walk on Saturday morning. The medal winners are coming out of the tunnel. Kate smiles shyly when we call her name. The medals are presented and then what a moment as the announcement comes first in French and then in English. It rings around the stadium “Ladies and Gentlemen please stand for the National Anthem of Ireland”. We turn and watch the Irish flag being raised and I can’t help but sing the anthem as it is played. The Japanese athlete in front of me turns around, a curious look on her face. Who cares we are watching Kate standing proudly on the rostrum as the Irish flag flies high and Amhran na bhFiann rings around the stadium.
Bernie the Irish team manager rounds everyone up she wants us all to go back to the team base and eat together. There is time for James to take a few more photos and for Kate to sign a few last autographs as we head to the team bus. On the way back RTE phone, they want to do an interview with Kate. We think what a pity they didn’t cover the race live. We arrive back at the restaurant; the athletes lay down the ground rules, athletes at one table adults at the other. We all eat together. Kate is one of the last to leave the table. She must have worked her magic on the staff here too. At dessert we go and collect a pot of yogurt but Kate arrives back with a huge plate of fresh melons!! She’s not leaving the table until she has eaten all her fruit. She has to get all that energy from somewhere. The team manager calls a team meeting, they must think now of the other athletes who are competing on Saturday and Sunday. We wish everyone a last goodbye and head off to walk to the Metro station and then after that take the train to Paris. It will be the small hours of the morning before we get back to our hotel but that matters little as a day we will long remember in every detail comes to an end.
Kate has been training hard over the last few years for this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. They have now been put back to next year and we all wish her the best as she follows her dream of competing at the Olympics.