Northern Ireland

Derry woman Aileen bids for triathlon glory

Aileen Morrison
Image caption Aileen Morrison's bronze medal represents the best result by an Irish triathlete

Sunday, 18 July 2010 was a landmark day for Aileen Morrison.

The World Triathlon Championship race in Hamburg, Germany, would prove to be one of the most exhilarating days of her sporting career - and provide the 29-year-old Londonderry woman with one of the most frightening moments of her life.

"There were just so many people, arms and legs. You're getting hit in the face, getting hit in the jaw," she said, describing the ordeal that is the swim.

"And you come to a buoy and it's a tight turn and you've got 60 girls trying to get round that buoy at the same time.

"You're just putting your arm in the water and there's people there. It's just so hard and I just thought I was going to die."

But she survived those early moments of panic.

Best finish

It's no wonder other Olympic athletes refer to the triathlon as the crazy sport of the Games.

But Aileen Morrison is good at it.

A bronze medal in Germany remains the best finish by any Irish triathlete in a major international event to date, and this from someone who only took up the sport seriously three years ago.

"I did do racing at school level, but on a borrowed bike and often with no training whatsoever," she said.

"Then it was baby steps along the way, buy a bike with your birthday money."

Morrison's coach, Chris Jones, is high performance director with Triathlon Ireland.

He has helped guide her to to a top-fifteen world ranking in recent times.

But Morrison's emergence as Ireland's leading triathlon prospect for the London Games hasn't come without sacrifice.


Most days in Lisburn, where she currently lives, begin at 05:15 BST in the local swimming pool.

In a typical week, she trains six hours a day, five days a week.

And apart from morning lie-ins, other treats have also been discarded.

"I've almost entirely given up tea. I would have had 10 cups a day. I just love tea and a bun," she says.

Yet such levels of commitment don't guarantee an Olympic place in London next summer.

Qualification for the Games is a complicated process based on her performance record across several events in the two seasons leading up to the Olympics.

It could be next April before she's sure that qualification for London has been secured.

But Morrison's family and friends are thinking positively.

Many of them have already applied for tickets - even if the woman they're planning to see in action is working hard to keep her feet on the ground.

"Who doesn't want to go to the Olympics? But I'm just trying not to get ridiculously excited about it," she adds.