Griffin’s success a triumph of the spirit

I know there was some big climatic finish to some league or other over the water at the weekend but for Leitrim sportspeople there was only one event to watch: Colin Griffin’s final chance to qualify for the 50km Walk in the London Olympics in August.

I know there was some big climatic finish to some league or other over the water at the weekend but for Leitrim sportspeople there was only one event to watch: Colin Griffin’s final chance to qualify for the 50km Walk in the London Olympics in August.

By Colin Regan

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Colin isn’t even 30 yet – he seems to have been around forever and a day. I guess he has in some ways, for the Leitrim Observer has been bringing us news of his brilliant career from his early juvenile days with Ballinamore AC. Much of the reportage has been through the priceless notes his father Padraig supplies to the paper week in week out giving us a constant reminder of the array of sporting codes young athletes across Leitrim strive for excellence in.

Colin had what he would call himself his ‘Annus Horribilis’ in 2011 and as a result of no 50km performance last year and not meeting the criteria, he was dropped from the Irish Sports Council Carding Scheme of which the grants were announced in March.

That is a huge blow to any international athlete for not only does it remove the vital funding that dictates the sort of training they can engage in, it also deliveries a psychological blow that only the toughest can overcome. Fortunately, in Colin we have one of the toughest around and he proved that to the world on Sunday. In intense heat and difficult conditions in Saransk, Russia, the Ballinamore man finished 15th in a time of 3:52.55, over six minutes inside the Olympic qualifying time.

Colin can now deservedly take his place amongst the best in the world at the summer Games, but more importantly, his unerring self-belief has been completely justified. I often check in on Colin’s blogs on his website but his last entry back in March touched me like few other sporting columns ever has.

Let me quote a little bit from it:

‘At the end of 2010 having finished 11th over 50km at the European Championships despite an injury-interrupted preparation, and having improved my 20km PB; I felt I was in a great position moving forward to pre-Olympic year. But since then I have watched my reputation that I worked long and hard to build up, slip away from me with one set-back after another.

‘But I always believe that a person is in control of their destiny and there are things that perhaps had I approached differently, that I may not have found myself in the position I am now in. However, it’s important not to waste time or energy dwelling on the negatives, only to accept and learn from them. While I may have lost some of my reputation and status within the sport, I have certainly not lost my confidence and desire to succeed.

‘I am looking forward to my 50km race in just under 4 weeks time and barring any disaster that may prevent me from finishing the race, I am confident of comfortably achieving the qualification standard and then have my sights firmly set on the Olympic Games this summer.’

That disaster he mentioned almost arrived when he picked up his second red card after just 10km on Sunday, but instead of throwing in the towel this appears to have cemented Colin’s concentration in a discipline determined by the mind as much as the body. The above paragraph should be posted in every dressing room and GYM in the country as an inspiration to anyone interested in being the best that they can be. Its Shawshank Redemption stuff for goodness sake!

It will, no doubt, offer some solace to our other great walker Laura Reynolds who was on the target for the Olympic Standard for three quarters of her race in Russia, only to fade in the latter stages finishing in 1:37:06 outside her best of 1:34:42 that she set earlier in the year in Naumburg. With a coach like Colin to guide her, Laura’s future is in good hands.

And finally a word from the saddle … Next Wednesday I’m cycling from Westport to Bundoran as part of the GPA’s ‘Race the Rás’ charity cycle to raise funds for AWARE and the National Breast Cancer Research Institute in Galway.

My sister Jean and my cousin Lyndsey McGonigle both inspired our family and friends with their indefatigable energy and spirit as they overcame breast cancer over the past 18 months and this is an easy way for me to show them how much they mean to me. There’s hardly a house in the county has hasn’t been affected by cancer or issues relating to mental health. If you would like to support either of these great charities please jump onto my fundraising page at http://www.mycharity.ie/event/colin_regan/ and give anything you can.