IN CORK we are lucky as we have many sporting heroes across many different types of sports.
Many will be well known locally, nationally and indeed internationally. But there are plenty others may not be as well know outside of their chosen sport, but within it they are still heroes to many.
Take Kate Cummins – Kate who I have no doubt many of you will ask.
Kate is a fitness model and the follow-on reaction might be — 'you are what?'
Then tell them you are a champion and they may look at you slightly perplexed. But that’s exactly what Kate is, even though outside of her chosen sport she may not be very well known around Cork.
Kate is at the top of her game and spend a few minutes in her company and you can see just why this athlete is just that. Words like dedicated, determined, passionate and highly motivated come to mind, but above all of them is her love of the sport.
Kate competes in the Fitness Model Category and if ever there was an ambassador for it she certainly fits the bill.
For this Mayfield lady it has become a lifestyle choice and one she is delighted to have made. For Kate, this is about improving herself and competing against the best in the business.
But this is not achieved easily and Kate points out that it takes a lot of sacrifices and dedication to get to the top, just like in any sport.
“Some people might look at competitors and would love to be like them, but it takes years of work to get to the top level, with plenty of ups and downs along the way.
“Just to prep for a competition takes anything up to 16 weeks where everything you eat and how you train is totally controlled. Add in you have to learn how to pose and it is a tough time before any competition.
“But when you get out on stage then the buzz you get makes it all worthwhile and makes all the sacrifices worthwhile.”
Add in the fact Kate is one of the top posing coaches in the countr
y and clients travel from all over the country, as well as the UK, to be coached by her. This aspect of their business is so busy that she can be booked up for months in advance.
These posing sessions last about an hour where Kate will, on a one-to-one basis, show competitors how to play to their strengths so they can best show off their physiques.
Kate is just one of many sporting heroes in the city whose reputation outside of her native Cork is far bigger than it probably is within it.
Others that come to mind include the likes of Laura Dorgan and Michelle O’Brien. Two women that are personal trainers, with two different stories but, like Kate, they are at the top of their game and are highly respected.
Laura’s story started in secondary school where on day one she had the embarrassment of being called out with a number of others and being told they were going to be in 1G – the remedial class.
Speaking about that Laura said:
“We were all lined up on our first day in secondary school and I was in the line for Class 1C. A teacher spoke to all of us and said there would be a new class formed, 1G, and this would be for remedial students.
“A number of us were called out and had to form a new line in front of all the others and it was extremely embarrassing. My mum collected me and I cried all the way home.
“But when I look back now it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. We had a great laugh, great teachers and in the end, others wanted to join our class it became so popular.”
And in many ways this sums up Laura, tell her she can’t do something and watch her prove you wrong!
“I really wanted to be a guard, but that didn’t work out for me, so I took up a sports studies course at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa for a year and followed it up with another course to become a fitness instructor.
“Whilst I was doing this I was also working at Fitnessworx, who were based first in Donnybrook and now out on Tramore Road since I was 19 and eventually ended up managing it. When we moved from Donnybrook to Tramore Road we had less than a month to do it all and it was all hands on deck but we got it done.”
Whilst all this was going on, Laura, through snapchat and Instagram, was becoming popular for her ‘funny and normal’ postings.
She noticed a gap in the market and set up the Laura Murphy (her maiden name) Body Blast class and it just took off.
Before she knew it Laura had to increase the number of classes to keep up with demand, but this shrewd operator always likes to keep ahead of others. She then noticed that TRX was starting to become popular and like the body blast it took off.
Laura was now running four classes a week, under her own name, and there was a waiting list to get into them.
Fate seems to be on Laura’s side and when she had the opportunity to take redundancy from Fitnessworx and after considering the matter she went for it. But wanting to keep ahead of others she kept developing new training methods and come up with the idea of an App.
“Everybody uses Apps now, but I wanted mine to cater for all sorts of people. Not everybody has the time or likes going to the gym, so I recorded more than 300 exercise videos and when people sign up they get a schedule, with clips to show them how to do the exercises properly,” said Laura.
The App, which includes food plans as well as exercises, simply took off and within weeks she had clients from all around the country and further afield.
This led to another twist of fate for Laura and along with her husband, Michael, she is now in New York where she runs an I Love Kickboxing franchise.
Such is her success story in the Big Apple that the likes of Retro Flame and Sam Barry are now amongst people she has helped on their fitness journey.
Erika Fox, better known as Retro Flame, is one of the biggest fashion and lifestyle bloggers in New York with hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and her website.
Sam Barry is the current editor in chief for Glamour magazine and to have women like them training with you shows the success story that Laura is – not bad for someone who was more or less told in school she wouldn’t amount to much.
Just to call Michelle O’Brien a personal trainer or instructor would be doing her an injustice.
Like everyone who is into looking after herself, both mentally and physically, Michelle’s journey had to start somewhere and in her case it was a series of tragedies that has inspired her as she now inspires others.
Whilst physical fitness is what you train with Michelle for, she is far more interested in your mental health and the name of her gym, Mindset Fitness, says it all.
When she opened, the gym being located at St Vincent’s GAA Club, Michelle put a lot of thought into what name she was going to call it and when Mindset Fitness was suggested she knew it was right.
For Michelle, the mind is as important as the body to be fit. Listening to Michelle talk about her passion to help people is infectious.
That passion to do so comes from her own life experiences and she has had her fair share of tragedy over the years.
A few events changed her life forever, the first was the tragic death of her brother, William, who died from a heart attack.
“When my brother died my world fell apart,” said Michelle, “but it wasn’t just me, it was my whole family whose world was unravelled.
"But we didn’t really talk about it as much as we should have. Instead we all tried to be strong for each other, but now I know we were just hiding our grief from each other.
“I was asking myself questions like, ‘Was I there enough?, Did I do enough for William?’
“Then I was made redundant from my job as well and it felt like my whole world was caving in.
“But I was going to the gym a bit and it started to become my place. The place where I went to escape everything, where I could forget my troubles and just work out.
“When I was training people started asking me for bits of advice and I was enjoying it so I started to do the necessary qualifications and it wasn’t long before I was working in a gym as a personal trainer.
“It was, and still is, something I really love doing. But even with all this my family was still grieving for my brother and then tragedy struck us again.”
Three years after William passed away, his twin brother also died.
As the family were trying to cope with this, sadly just 11 weeks later their mother passed away.
But the gym and training was Michelle’s release through all this grief, which you don’t ever get over, but learn to cope with.
All this heartache has made Michelle even more determined to help others and in the last year, she undertook a counselling course at CIT to further enhance her ability to help people who come to her gym.
“Some of the time people come to escape their troubles or just their day-to-day life. I tell them that when they come through the door to forget whatever is bothering them and just try and relax while they are here.
“Sometimes just listening to them is important and the counselling course has helped me in that regard. It has helped me become a better listener and to recognise that it’s not always the obvious that is on someone’s mind.
“Looking after your health at this time, to me, is crucial and can help women to cope. But I truly believe that being active and conscious of what you eat benefits everybody, no matter what stage of your life you are at.”
So in a time when the Covid-19 virus has us looking for inspirational people then look no further than these three ladies.
They may not be as well-known as other Cork sports stars but you won’t find three better role models out there than Kate, Laura or Michelle.