09:00AM, Friday 07 October 2016
Riding with fire in their bellies after disappointing results on the track, Maidenhead’s Katie-George Dunlevy and Irish squad tandem partner Eve McCrystal struck gold and then silver on the roads around Rio last month.
Reflecting on the ‘best days of her life’, 34-year-old Dunlevy said taking gold in the Paralympic time-trial event with McCrystal was the best she’d ever felt and, after hearing the national anthem play as the Irish flag was lifted to the skies, they returned three days later to take a creditable silver – behind a strong Polish team – in the Paralympic tandem road race.
What’s followed has been a bit of a whirlwind for Dunlevy, who was greeted by hundreds of supporters at an Olympic and Paralympic celebration ceremony in Marlow on Sunday.
She’s also spent time in schools in her native Ireland, as well as the UK, showing off her hard-earned medals.
Dunlevy - who is visually impaired -and McCrystal will continue riding together until the World Championships in South Africa in August, but after that their career together on the roads and the track is unclear.
“After that we’re not sure,” said the Maidenhead resident. “I’d like to continue if I’m still enjoying it and still successful, but it will be hard to beat this.
“Would I be happy to go and compete and not get a medal? And if Eve decides not to continue would I be able to find another world class partner?”
Preparation for the pair was good going into the Paralympics.
They’d secured two gold medals at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Cup so they knew they were among the best in the world, but it didn’t quite work out for them on the track in Rio. A seventh place finish in the 1k was followed by a fifth in the 3k, but those disappointments gave them extra impetus to succeed on the road.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “There was a great buzz in Rio, but we had to take it all in our stride.
“On the track we weren’t too far off the gold and silver medal ride, but we just had to move on and we had a fire in our belly from having missed out on the track.
“We believed we could win a medal and finish in the top three. During the race you’re hurting so much, but you know your partner is hurting too and you don’t want to let them down.”
In the end they finished almost 34 seconds clear of the next best pair.
“We blew them away,” admitted Dunlevy. “It came together on the roads and that’s as happy as I’ve ever felt. It was the best day of my life and there was so much emotion because that’s what we’d been working towards for four years. The road race was always going to be tough but we went into it wanting to get a medal. We finished more than a minute behind the Polish team but they’d been the best in the world.
“To finish with a silver shows how far we’ve come.
“Our relationship is really strong.
“It’s had its ups and downs but we’ve had the same goal and we’ve got the same spirit. We believed in ourselves and each other.”
Dunlevy thanked coach David Dent at David Lloyd Gym in Maidenhead, where she has free membership, and also praised Aaron Nicholson at the Drummond Clinic in Maidenhead.
The UK has voted to leave the European Union in yesterday's referendum - and while the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead fell into the remain camp, Slough voted to support a Brexit.