WITH a connection to the athletics meet going back to her childhood days, Louise Shanahan was an appropriate choice as the Cork City Sports Athletics Person of the Year for 2022.
The 26-year-old Leevale athlete, who is now studying at Cambridge University, was the May monthly winner when she received the award for setting an Irish 800m record in Belfast.
There, she not only broke the magical two-minute barrier for the two-lap event for the first time but also defeated the current Irish record holder, Ciara Mageean, to set a new Irish best of 1:59.42.
Speaking at the function in the River Lee hotel, the 26-year-old said that the Cork City Sports has been an incredibly important event not only to herself but also her family.
“My mum tells me I first went to the Sports in a carry-cot while she was typing up the results,” she recalled.
“I would have competed there in the school relays and was also a basket girl. I ran the junior race and now I’m really looking forward to running the senior race this coming July.”
That record run in Belfast where she improved on Mageean’s previous best of 1:59.69 went into the history books as the first time that two Irish women had gone under the iconic two minutes in the same race.
During that month of May, Shanahan showed her versatility with clockings of 55.88 over 400 metres and 4:13.27 for the 1500m.
Looking back on 2022, she said the year was a big step forward for her. “It was a year that a lot of athletes dream for and hope they have, but at the same time quite a few things went wrong but hopefully we can build on it and go on from there.”
Now in her final year at Cambridge where she is studying for a PhD in Quantum Physics, Shanahan is coached by Phil O’Dell who is the university cross-country coach.
“He’s got me really fit and obviously it’s paying off on the track.
"There are several girls who find it quite easy to drop me but that’s good as it gives me the motivation to push harder and see how close to them I can get.
“Then going into the summer I have a great group of lads to train with including a couple of 1:48 800 metre runners and four-minute-milers. So it is a really great community of training partners and it’s obviously working out quite well for me.”
Originally scheduled to run the Irish indoor championships the weekend of her award, an Achilles put paid to that.
“I’m disappointed to be missing the indoors but for me the big goal this year is the outdoors with the World Championships in Budapest and also trying to get the qualification for Paris sorted.
“The Olympic qualification opens the first of July so in July and August it will be all systems go to try and qualify for 2024. Historically, the peak age for women’s 800m have been about 28 so for me I hope that my best years are still to come and I’m definitely training away believing that.”
The Cork City Sports Athletics Person of the Month Award is sponsored by the River Lee, 96&C103FM, The Echo, Cork Crystal and Leisureworld.