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Sonia O’Sullivan relieved she is not having to deal with lockdown as an athlete
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Sonia O'Sullivan shows off her Olympic silver medal

O’Sullivan was 5,000m silver medallist at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney – five years after winning World Championship gold over the distance

Irish great Sonia O’Sullivan says she “can’t imagine” what the lockdown period is like for athletes attempting to plot a course for the rescheduled Olympics in Tokyo next year.

“I was somebody who definitely thrived on running races and being competitive,” said O’Sullivan, 50.

“It’s a massive challenge for athletes to go through this every day.”

O’Sullivan clinched the Olympic 5,000m silver medal in 2000 and won the world title over the distance in 1995.

Speaking to GoBonus Radio Ulster’s Sportsound Extra-Time programme, O’Sullivan added: “There’s never been a time in any athlete’s career where they haven’t had a race to look forward to.

“They don’t know when the races are going to start back up again. When you train so much, you run races so you can check your progress, adjust your training programme and refocus on different things but all that is gone now.

“I definitely raced a lot better than I ever trained. I put in the work but for fast training and time trials, I was never very good because the competition and being in a race would raise me to a level where I could do things that I could never possibly do in training.

“Just to get up in the morning and go out and push themselves to a level where they are just maintaining fitness [is difficult].

“Not doing too much. You don’t want to get sick or get injured because if you are in that position when things start back up again, that would be everybody’s worst nightmare.”

Jakob Ingebrigtsen (left) won a specially organised 5km road race in Stavanger last week

‘Other countries should follow Norway example’

The former world and European champion believes athletes should consider following the example set in Norway last week; a 5km road race was staged in Stavanger, which saw Jakob Ingebrigtsen setting a new national record for the distance as he finished four seconds ahead of his brother Henrik.

“It’s like everybody is hibernating at the moment and waiting to be let out and be allowed to race again,” added O’Sullivan, who also was a double world cross-country champion in 1998.

“Maybe other areas and countries will have to start thinking of doing that where you just create a smaller low key race in a small place.

“People have to be innovative and go out there and create these things because otherwise athletes are going to get bored and stale.

“When you come out and run that first race, it’s like blowing the cobwebs away.

“That’s what a lot of athletes probably need to do right now. It will kind of reset them and give them a boost to continue training.”

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