Golden Paralympic duo splits in bid for greater Irish success in Paris 2024

For now, at least, Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal have stopped competing together

They’ve had a long and very successful partnership, winning the top races in the sport, including two golds and a silver at the Paris Paralympic Games. But for now, at least, Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal have stopped competing together, something the latter has elaborated upon this week.

“I am as motivated as I was before, as is Katie,” McCrystal told The Irish Times. “It is all eyes to Paris for two woman tandems. At the minute, we’re just seeing what works best in order to get maximum points to get us there. That’s where we’re at the minute. It’s full focus.”

Dunlevy and McCrystal have been a sparkling partnership over the years, winning a spate of medals including two golds and a silver in the 2021 Paralympic gold in Tokyo, where they were the most successful of all the Irish athletes.

They also took gold and silver at the 2016 Games, as well as six road World Championship titles and the Paracycling World Cup series title they sealed last August.


It’s been a deeply impressive success story. And that’s why disrupting such a partnership is a little unexpected, not least because further gold medals would be on the cards. However there is reason behind the rethink. Namely, to maximise the number of cyclists at the next Paralympic Games.

Under the plan developed with national coach Jamie Blanchfield, McCrystal is now piloting the tandem of visually impaired athlete Josephine Healion, a relative newcomer to international competition. Dunlevy is now working with Linda Kelly, who she partnered with briefly last year to take the European time trial title.

Together Dunlevy and Kelly won both the time trial and road race at the Paracycling World Cup events in Maniago, Italy, two weeks ago. Healion and McCrystal also lined out there, taking fourth in the time trial and 10th in the road race.

They then jumped up a level in winning the UCI-ranked C1 road race held last Sunday in Flanders, Belgium. Dunlevy and Kelly finished second.

McCrystal said having two tandems in that event changed things a lot, tactically. “We’re in a completely different dynamic than ever before. We obviously want to work together and we chatted [about those tactics] in the race.

“Linda led us into a corner, we attacked out of it and got away. As a new pairing, we genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen. The climbs came at the end of the course and we were very surprised to be able to get over the last climb on our own. The girls came across, which was always the plan, and then we were together to the finish.

“It was really good. Very exciting for Paris. The reason why the pairings were mixed was for us to have two strong woman tandems on the road. It’s all focused on Paris now. At the minute, myself and Josie are getting to know each other. A tandem pairing takes time. And as much as that was a win, there’s a lot of work to do. We’ll get there. That’s what it is all about.”

The Irish team’s success has already secured an early berth for the 2024 Paralympics last year. That’s not limited to one specific event, thus giving flexibility in sharing around qualifications.

The hope is that Healion and McCrystal plus Dunlevy and Kelly can earn enough points in the months ahead to qualify two more berths. That could see not one but two Irish woman tandems in the next Paralympic Games, plus an additional competitor qualified in one of the other woman events.

The points gathering is continuing this week in the second round of the World Cup in Ostend, Belgium, which runs until Sunday. Dunlevy and Kelly won the time trial on Friday, with Healion and McCrystal fourth.

The latter believes that they should get closer to the top as their partnership evolves.

“It’s really good as a team to change things up a bit,” McCrystal explains. “It is just a different dynamic. Like, Josie is going to learn so much for me. And Linda’s going to learn so much from Katie. So it’s maximising, I suppose, everything that myself and Katie have learned over the last number of years and putting it into getting two bikes to go fast and to potentially podium in Paris.”

So does this spell an end to the Dunlevy/McCrystal combination, one which was so successful in the past?

“No, that door is wide open,” McCrystal answered. “There’s nothing set in stone. It’s just the points and getting us there. The four of us are on the one team. So whatever happens, happens. Whatever we are told to do, we do. That door is always open.”

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling