At 6:50am (Irish time) this morning Katie George Dunlevy & Eve McCrystal began their B Time Trial event in the 2020/2021 Paralympics. 47:32.07 minutes later they passed the line to claim their gold medals and their second triumph of the Tokyo Games.
Accustomed to success at this point, the pair are still ever humble in victory but confident in the immense effort they put in to get to this point. Perhaps their most admirable and charming traits however are that of their utter belief in each other and their determination to succeed despite the “suffer fest” cycling sometimes culminates as.
Just for context… Since Rio 2016, Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal have won GOLD in the Women’s B Road Time Trial at the Paralympics and World Championships on EVERY occasion possible bar one! WOW. 😵@CyclingIreland | @ParalympicsIRE https://t.co/CgFvZXmofA— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) August 31, 2021
“When you’re doing a time trial and you’re doing a full gas effort… and [towards the end] you can’t see you’re hurting that much there’s nearly the two of us that are blind on the bike then” says pilot McCrystal.
“You don’t know whether you are going to get sick or what’s going to happen, but because there’s somebody behind you, you will never, ever give up.”
“It’s just so much more fun together… I know she’s given 110% and she knows I’ve given a whole 110% every time.”
The stars aligned back in 2013 to allow for the duo to cement themselves as one of the world’s best tandem outfits over the coming years. Dunlevy having made the switch from rowing and her previous partner having retired was in search of an associate, which she found in mum of two and triathlete Eve McCrystal following the Carlingford National Bike Championships.
“I just knew we were just very driven and as a stoker I need someone on the front of the bike that has that because we’re both individual athletes, but you need the pilot to want to aim high as well and achieve the same things as you” says Dunlevy.
“You can train as hard as you like but if the other person doesn’t then you’re not going to beat the other tandem riders out there.”
Not without it’s challenges and tribulations though, many a sacrifice had to be made in order to become the inspirations the brace are now seen as.
“I think you sacrifice a lot if you’re working towards something, and sport was that for us you know” says Katie.
“You have to be very selfish in many ways… and you do probably miss out on other things. The way I look at it is though you’ll look back and it’ll be worth it.”
“You’ve got the rest of your life. You know? It’s only really a short amount of time in your life that you’re doing this for and so I think we’re privileged to be in this position.”
Many would say the most magical aspect of the Paralympics is the overcoming of adversity to achieve one’s goals, something which 43-year-old Eve oozes delight of in her partner who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at 11 years of age.
“For Katie being partially sighted she could show childrenin her situation that you know ‘oh, I can do that’” says McCrystal.
“Katie has made her career out of this. This is her job. So, being a Stoker on a tandem is a job. And if you do well, it’s a well-paid job.”
“Just because it’s the Paralympics or Katie has a disability; she doesn’t work any less than anybody. In fact, she hasmore obstacles in her way in order to achieve what she has. Hats off to every Paralympian and disabled athlete, because they do have bigger challenges in my opinion.”
In the face of this however Para-sport often lacks in media and public appreciation, notwithstanding the extraordinary display of talent on offer. The Irish tandem team tend not to dwell on the matter as to do so “would put your head mad”, but regardless aspire for growth.
“It doesn’t get the same recognition at all” says McCrystal.
Day 6; GOLD for #TeamIreland! Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal did a phenomenal job in the #ParaCycling Women’s B Time Trial with a time of 47:32.07 ⏱️. Incredibly proud of their achievement #Paralympics #Tokio2020 keeps getting better and better. @RTE2 has all the updates! pic.twitter.com/2EVDNslNsn— NoLimbsNoLimits (@NoLimbsNoLimits) August 31, 2021
“I think probably certain athletes do get recognition and others don’t. But if you concentrated on that, you’d never succeed.”
“I’d like to see more media get behind Paralympic sportbecause it’s so exciting…. It is improving but Ireland are a little bit behind I think compared to other countries as well.”
If medal tallies, exhilarating performances and heartening stories are anything to go by Ireland’s Paralympic athletes are amongst the best in the world, and echoed by this cycling crew they are only yet to be fully seen as so.