Profile: Sonia O'Sullivan

As the Olympics draw to a close, we look back at one of Ireland's most celebrated athletes and Olympians

Sonia OSullivan

Image: ©INPHO/Patrick Bolger

Rio 2016 hasn't been without its controversy and events during this summer's Games highlighted all that's good and bad about the current state of the Olympics.

There's been allegations of corruption levelled against judges, doping scandals in the run up to the event as well as safety concerns regarding the athletes.

So while we endure some of the lows of the Olympics, we decided to cast our mind back in to the not so distant past to celebrate one of Ireland's most famous Olympians: Sonia O'Sullivan.

A native of Cobh in County Cork, she kicked off her running career with Ballymore Running Club and developed a reputation for being one of Ireland's elite long distance runners in the 1990s and early 2000s.

She represented Ireland at numerous World and European Championships in the 1990s and in three Olympic Games - Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. 

Her performance at the 1994 European Championships in the Helsinki 3,000m earned her a gold medal, another sterling effort following her silver medal in the 1993 World Championship 1,500m in Stuttgart. 

A gold medal in the 5,000m in the World Championships in Gothenburg ensured she went into her maiden Olympics carrying the weight of a nation's expectations on her shoulders.

After comfortably reaching the final of the 5,000m event, one which she had performed so well in, she was unable to finish citing an upset stomach. With the hopes of a nation on her shoulders her Olympic dream ended in heartbreak.

Sonia O'Sullivan struggles to keep up with the pack during the final of the 5,000m. Image: John Giles / PA Archive/Press Association Images

She returned to the track in spectacular fashion in 1998, clinching four gold medals that year including two at the European Championships in the 10,000m and 5,000m events.

The performances helped her forget the disappointment of Atlanta and finished second in the 5,000m in Olympics, only behind Romania's Gabriela Szabo.

"It was absolutely an honour," she told Newstalk Sport of being the country's flag-bearer for the games. "At the time I was focused on competing and my event and it was just one other thing.

"When I did get to carry the flag in I did feel very proud and you just get buzz of it and goosebumps walking in there. You get a big loud cheer. It’s a very special moment. It’s something I’ll always remember."

Her final games came in 2004 when the Olympics returned to it's home in Athens. She finished 14th in the 5,000m, an event she once dominated and finished her final Games before announcing her retirement in 2007.

Currently a studio analyst for RTE, she remains a credible and well respected voice in Irish athletics.