Power has her head in the game before Tokyo dream 4 weeks ago

Power has her head in the game before Tokyo dream

When it comes to the international stage, Irish-based athletes can often find themselves running into the wind.

That's why, when a young Irish athlete tops the class and wins a few national titles, logic veers them towards the more professional American collegiate scene where they will, for better or worse, want for nothing.

The same goes for our more senior stars and it explains why Ciara Mageean - the country's most successful athlete - trains out of Manchester, while Paul Robinson, for example, has spent much of his career with the Melbourne Track Club in Australia.

There are a variety of factors which make places like Manchester, Australia and America more suitable breeding grounds for distance runners, chief among them facilities, training groups and competition. That's not to mention the advantage athletes from these countries have over Irish competitors in terms of central funding.

Initiatives like the fledgling Dublin Track Club, which has brought many of Ireland's top distance runners together, are helping to turn the tide but as Toyota ambassador Nadia Power explains, there is still room for improvement in the Irish lot.

"Getting our funding in time has been a bit of an issue in the past," the Dubliner says.

"You do have to resort to your own savings. I'm hoping to have the funding in time for the outdoor season, which should pay for camp and my races outdoors."

You couldn't imagine the top British athletes waiting in the wings but that's just the way of the world. As Power explains, rugby and GAA are the big dogs in Ireland and the big dogs get the dinner. As an individual, Power has no issues with this status quo as such and is determined to let her performances raise her profile while being thankful to all those who have offered their support.

"Because athletics is a smaller sport in Ireland, we might not get the same amount of commercial opportunities," Power explains, "so that's why I'm delighted that someone like Toyota are backing us because in Ireland - a lot of the sponsors would immediately go for rugby or GAA. So we are lacking a bit of opportunities there. It can be tough, but I even have a lot of people helping me this year and reaching out - a lab even offered me free covid tests so there's a lot of good people out there who want to help and I really appreciate that..."

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The Tokyo Olympics are the talk of the town these days and Power is on target, largely thanks to a hectic and progressive indoor season. The winter circuit brought her to all corners of the continent and its unrelenting nature took its toll at the European championships but as she says herself, it was never the be-all and end-all.

"You end up racing a lot. I did race a lot and was pretty tired by the Euros, but I had to play the game to get the Olympic points, and when opportunities came up to run good races and running fast times, I had to take them as I knew it would help my Olympic chances so much and it did work out really well..."

As things stand, Power is sitting pretty in the rankings, her accumulated points placing her 35th in the table and within the 48 qualification places. Money in the bank might get her to Tokyo but she won't be relying on it, aiming to break her PB and run the 1.59.50 800m standard early on in her outdoor season.

"I'm keeping it in mind that I've jumped 25 places in the last month. So, who knows what progress other athletes can make. I hope yes, but I'm definitely not resting on that. I don't feel that safe at the moment, and I know I can do better in summer. I really want to secure it in my first few races outdoors."

Women's 800m medallists, from left, Ellie Baker of Great Britain, silver, Jemma Reekie of Great Britain, gold, and Nadia Power of Ireland, bronze, on the podium during day three of the European U23 Athletics Championships at the Gunder Hägg Stadium in Gävle, Sweden. 

In the end, not making the 800m final in Torun was a disappointment but with the bigger picture in mind, the 23-year-old is happy lessons learned will stand her in good stead.

"I think I've gained a lot of independence from travelling around and navigating all the restrictions with Covid and stuff. It's definitely made me more independent to manage things alone and I kind of feel like I can perform well with a lot of other things going on -- managing college and stuff like that. But I think another learning is I still need to step up if I want to be really serious about going for a medal. The Europeans showed there's a lot of work to do there still. It was my first senior championship and I think it's important to remember that. So lots of progress made and hopefully I'll be better in the future..."

Representing Ireland is an "honour" and the opportunity to be a role model is great but Power's head is firmly in the game and on the track.

"I think it's important. I think if an athlete has the opportunity, and wants to do so, then I think they definitely should," she says of potential Black Lives Matter protests at the Olympics.

"Equally, I don't think pressure should be put on athletes to do so. It's up to them if they want to, and it's great if they do. We're not politicians, we're just athletes at the end of the day."

Nadia Power, newly announced Toyota ambassador and Irish athlete is pictured as Toyota look forward to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Toyota is a worldwide mobility partner to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Toyota are leaders in mobility and their Start Your Impossible campaign celebrates the best of human performance and can be viewed on www.toyota.ie. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie.