The North West will be cheering on Irish Olympic triathlon hopeful Aileen Morrison in the race of her life tomorrow.
At 9am the 30 year-old triathlete will go for gold as she takes to the Serpentine River with family and a host of Derry friends and clubmates from North West Triathlon Club roaring her on.
Many thousands of suppporters will line the Hyde Park route as Aileen completes the 1,500 metre swim and grits her teeth for a 40km cycle followed by a 10km run to the finish line.
Mum and dad Una and Michael will brimming with pride as they take their places in Hyde Park to watch their daughter take on her greatest challenge to date.
“She’s done it all herself, that’s what I admire most about her,” proud mum Una said.
She added that Aileen, who is currently ranked seventh in the world in women’s triathlon, is preparing to give it everything she’s got. “She’s going out to do her best. She said she’s not there to make up the numbers, she’s there to compete.”
Friend and clubmate Aoife Logan, who has trained with Aileen for many years, believes the Culmore Road triathlete has fighting chance of winning a medal.
“I think Aileen has as good a chance as any of the athletes taking part. She’s very driven, works very hard and trains very hard - and if it all goes right for her on the day she can beat anyone in the world.”
Aoife and a group of North West Triathlon Club members are travelling to London today to join Aileen’s family in cheering on the Derry woman.
“What she has achieved is amazing, it’s great not only for the club but for the North West and beyond,” added Aoife.
Those who can’t make the trip to London are expected to get behind the Olympic hopeful in Waterloo place tomorrow morning. Derry City Council have arranged for the erection of a marquee and seating, where North West Triathlon Club members will join Aileen’s friends and family to watch the drama unfold on a big screen.
Joe Doherty, from the Committee of North West Triathlon Club, said Aileen had done the club, Derry and Ireland proud with her fantastic progress in the sport. “Aileen is a relative newcomer to the sport, having only started doing triathlons five years ago while most of her competitors at the Olympics have been doing it since childhood. She was always a very strong athlete in her individual disciplines but it wasn’t until 2006-2007 that she tried triathlon. She wasn’t an instant overwhelming success but she showed promise and with the guidance of the NWTC and some of its senior members, namely the late Colm Quigley, she was coached to a standard good enough for her to be spotted by Triathlon Ireland coaches. NWTC training structure and its long history in the sport - as well as boasting a former Olympian Liam Ball as a past member - may have played a part in moulding her for success.”
Aileen was invited to join the Triathlon Ireland development in 2008 and from there her rate of improvement was phenomenal. She became the best female in her age-group throughout Ireland within a year and by the following year she was competing in Ireland colours internationally.”
Aileen is currently ranked seventh in the world, which limits her chances of a podium place finish. However, a performance to match her silver medal finish in the ITU World Series race in Madrid and ITU in the World Cup in Japan recently could well see her in the medals in London come 11am tomorrow.
Veteran Limavady Triathlete Peter Jack of Triangle Triathlon Club in Limavady - who will also be cheering on Aileen in London - believes she will finish in the top ten and even has a “medal chance” in the race. “Known as one of the fastest runners in the world of triathlon, if Aileen has a smart swim and an equally smart bike and if she steps off the bike in transition 2 in the main pack, she could well run herself into the top ten.”