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How Outdoor Play Helped an Olympian to Succeed

The Irish Olympian Fionnuala McCormack recently revealed the amazing story of her journey to stardom. The athlete specialises in the 3000 metres steeplechase. She was the gold medallist at the 2011 and 2012 European Cross Country Championships. Fionnuala represents Ireland around the world as an athlete, but her background is anything but international. Her whole life has been rooted in the rural County Wicklow.

The 32-year-old was born in the Irish village of Newcastle in 1984 and spent her whole childhood there. Newcastle was a tiny place at the time, with just a pub, a shop and a garage among a few houses. Because there weren’t many people living in the area, Fionnuala says that boys and girls of all ages used to play together.

Fionnuala’s parents, Ellen and Eoin, designed a four-bedroomed bungalow on half an acre of land. She was the second eldest among her siblings. Her mother was a stenographer in Dublin while her father quit his civil service job and decided to be a stay-at-home dad.

As a young child, Fionnuala says that she always wanted to play, be active and be outdoors. She played hockey, camogie, tennis, badminton and also loved to cycle. As years passed and her friends stopped playing childhood games, Fionnuala decided to follow her passion by getting involved in sports and continue playing.

Fionnuala reminisces about how she used to take her sister and friends out on trips near the sea as it was just a mile away from their home. During the summer, they would spend their days going on adventures around the seaside area and swimming at the enclosed Brittas Bay area.

She joined a running club when she was seven because her sister was also part of it. Although she wasn’t very good, Fionnuala says that she used to love it. Fionnuala was always good at long distances and very competitive. Her first win in a competition came when she was in the 6th class in the 400 metres race.

Her talent started showing when she started secondary school at the Dominican convent in Wicklow town. In her second year at school, Fionnuala represented her country internationally in cross-country running. She regarded herself as an introvert; this is because while other teenagers hung out at discos and street corners, she chose to be alone.

She lived in Dublin for a while and later on went to pursue a degree in sports science at Dublin University, though she always felt like leaving the city. Fionnuala now lives with her husband in Wicklow town. Immediately after their children grew up, her parents left Newcastle and currently live in Brittas Bay. Despite her new sports-dominated lifestyle taking her across the globe, Fionnuala maintains that her life and home is still in Wicklow.

Fionnuala McCormack believes that it was child’s play that began her interest in cross-country, and without it, she would not be where she is today. By sharing her story, she hopes to encourage other children and teenagers to enjoy the outdoors and persevere with their favourite sports through local clubs and training, even if it’s something that their friends might not want to take part in.

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