Irish running legend Sonia O’Sullivan was in Derry this week to back Foyle Valley Athletic Club’s new development plans.
Members of Foyle Valley AC were delighted to spend some time with the two times world cross-country champion, European, World champion and Olympic silver medal holder on Monday.
Sonia was taken aback by the local club’s “beautiful home” at St Columb’s Park. She compared the site to an underdeveloped Kenyan facility and recalled the uneven surface and inaccurate yardage of the old track she trained on as a kid in Cobh.
Foyle Valley AC chairperson Cathal McLaughlin outlined the club’s objectives to install floodlighting for training in the winter months, to upgrade the track and provide a modern, accurately measured and marked out surface.
Sonia said: “This is a wonderful location for an athletics track, a beautiful setting and the lovely mature trees provide great shelter from the wind. Shelter is so important for athletics tracks as it is allows consistent training for athletes and allows coaches to properly monitor their performance.”
She added: “Providing floodlighting here will be a fantastic asset for athletics training in general but particularly for younger athletes especially through the winter months.
“It can also provide a safe place to train for ladies’ groups as well as specialist training for soccer, hockey, rugby and GAA teams and a venue for local schools to use throughout the year. Everyone could use the track.”
Sonia also paid tribute to Foyle Valley’s “drive, enthusiasm and commitment” to developing athletics in the city.
“I would love to come back to watch an athletics meet here in the future. It would be special,” she added.