With just over one month until the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, Derry triathlete Aileen Morrison has been awarded the Dale Farm 2012 Dreams Sports Award, the biggest individual sporting bursary available in N. Ireland.
Aileen, who recently put in the best ever performance by an Irish triathlete at a world event, winning silver at the Madrid World Championship Series - will receive £5,000 funding, provided by Dale Farm in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust.
Launched in 2006 as a springboard for young sporting talent to reach international competitive level, the Dale Farm Sports Award was relaunched in 2012 as the Dale Farm ‘2012 Dreams’ Sports Award, honing in on the layer of local athletes striving for a place at the London Games – with triathlete Aileen claiming the latest place in the hall of fame.
“This funding will really assist me in my final burst of international preparation for the Games”, said Aileen. “The last 18 months have been an extremely intensive programme collecting points for qualification to the Games, and now that London is in sight, having the access to very targeted training is essential.
“I’m delighted to have been selected for this award and I’m grateful to Dale Farm as a local business for lending its support to athletes such as myself.”
Aileen is considered to be an outsider for a medal in London but she stressed that everything must come together on the day for her to achieve that dream.
“I could do 10 races over one season and half of them will be good races and in the other half I will think I could have done better, so for one day at the Olympics I need everything to go right for that to be my best race.
“To say I’m not capable of getting a medal would be a lie. I know I’m capable of competing with the best in the world.
“It’s not impossible, but that would be me having everything go right on the day and with a little bit of luck on my side and me being at my best so we’ll see.
“Realistically a very good position for me would be top 10,” she added. “I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I was top 15, but if I could finish top five that would blow my mind.
“It’s an amazing achievement to qualify and represent your country in the Olympic Games and I am really excited and super enthusiastic, but it’s one race every four years.
“In our sport anything can happen on the day and there are so many variables. I’m a little nervous about putting all my eggs in one basket and saying this race is going to be the be all and end all of my career because it’s definitely not.
“What I really what to achieve is being consistent through the year and deliver good performances in all three of my disciplines all the time.”
Dale Farm’s Head of Marketing Brian Beattie believes Aileen was the perfect candidate for the Dreams Sports award: “Aileen represents exactly the kind of determination, passion and skill that the Award seeks to recognise,” he said. “In a relatively short time of international competition, she has fought her way to being ranked 7th in the world and is going into the London Games in a fantastic position. We’ll be cheering her on every stroke, pedal and step of the way! ”
“Dale Farm has a long history of supporting active lifestyles and encouraging sport at all levels and this bursary has recognised some of Northern Ireland’s most successful young athletes since its inception.
“As well as for Aileen we’ll be cheering on past winners, Lisa Kearny and Paddy Barnes as they compete this summer, and wishing all local athletes the best of luck.”
Dame Mary Peters added: “As an Olympic Team GB Ambassador I will be closely involved in London 2012 and while there I’ll be cheering on and supporting Aileen and all our local athletes.
“I am personally very excited about the games but I also know how the athletes are feeling, it is 40 years since I won my Gold but the mix of emotions is still a very real experience to me.
“Getting to the Olympics is a team effort, including; family, coaches, sporting bodies and of course sponsors. Dale Farm have the foresight to invest in the future of our sporting prowess, this is an investment in our whole community, success in sport from our young athletes is something I’m passionate about and through the Mary Peters Trust I am involved in daily.
“Thank you to Dale Farm for supporting this invaluable award. I want to wish Aileen and all our local athletes travelling to the Olympics a great games and urge them be the best they can be.”