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Jenny Egan not giving up on Olympic dream

Canoeist’s disappointment did not stop her having a very successful summer

Jenny Egan competing for Ireland at the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photograph: Sportsfile

“Bitterweet,” is how Jenny Egan describes the experience of watching the Olympic Games on TV this summer rather than being in Brazil representing Ireland, the Dubliner having suffered the agony of missing out on qualification by one place for both the London and Rio Games.

European competitors took 11 of the 15 women’s canoeing medals awarded in Rio, New Zealand and Australia winning the other four, which demonstrated the continent’s strength in the sport and what Egan was up against when she tried to come through that qualification process. She reached both Olympic qualifying finals, in Milan and Duisberg, but missed out on the top two finishes required, left ruing the fact that her sport isn’t like “swimming or athletics where you do a qualifying time and you’re in - and you have numerous opportunities”.

Those disappointments might have got the better of most, but Egan went on to have a hugely successful summer during which she produced a string of fine results and performances.

The highlights came in Portugal and the Czech Republic where she won gold and silver World Cup medals, the 29-year-old the only Irish canoeist, male or female, to medal in World Cup events.

“Yes, it was painful watching the Olympics knowing that I was so close to qualifying for it once again,” she says. “But when I missed qualifying for London 2012 it affected me badly - the one thing I said to myself was that if I did not qualify this time I would not let it affect the rest of my sprint or marathon racing season. So I reset my focus and came away with my best ever International sprint results and I am now in training for the marathon World Championships in Brandenburg, Germany in September.”

“I have produced the best races of my life in all distances, winning those World Cup medals, doing new personal best times and Irish national record times in the Olympic distances. It is bittersweet having not qualified for Rio, but I feel I have learned a lot about myself as an athlete over this past year and I will build on this going into the future.”

And far from having enough of that qualification process, Egan intends digging deeper and hoping that it’ll be ‘third time lucky’.

“I definitely have my sights set on trying to qualify for Tokyo 2020. I am very motivated and I hope to continue to improve my results at World Cups, European and World Championships and hoping for some more podium finishes along the way. Once I keep enjoying my sport and stay injury free I hope to be part of Team Ireland in Tokyo 2020.”

Previous monthly winner (awards run from December 2015 to November 2016, inclusive).

December: Fionnuala McCormack (Athletics). McCormack just missed out on an individual medal at the European Cross Country Championships in France, finishing fourth, but led the Irish team, completed by Lizzie Lee, Caroline Crowley and Ciara Durkan, to bronze. She went on to finish 20th in the Olympic marathon.

January: Aine McKenna (Basketball). The Kerry woman won the Most Valuable Player award for her performance in the National Cup final when she captained Glanmire club Team Montenotte in their outstanding 96-64 victory over Killester.

February: Ciara Mageean (Athletics). On the comeback trail from a serious ankle problem, the runner from Portaferry, Co Down had a hugely encouraging end to 2015 and start to 2016, securing Olympic qualification and then, in February, breaking two Irish indoor records, the 1,500m and the mile, one 16 years old, the other seven. She went on to win bronze in the 1,500m at the European Championships in July and, in Rio, reached the semi-finals in the same event,

March: Nina Carberry (Horse Racing). For the second year running Carberry won the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham on the Enda Bolger-trained On The Fringe, making it three victories in the race in all, and six career victories at The Festival.

April: Ellis O’Reilly (Gymnastics). The 18-year-old became the first woman to represent Ireland in gymnastics at the Olympic Games after she qualified through the test event in Rio in April.

May: Kellie Harrington (Boxing). The Dubliner won silver in her first ever World Championships, beating opponents from Lithuania, Germany, Kazakhstan and Canada before China’s Asian champion Wenlu Yang in the light-welterweight final, one judge voting the contest a draw. 

June: Leona Maguire, Olivia Mehaffey and Maria Dunne (Golf). The trio contributed nine and a half of Britain and Ireland’s 11 and half points on their way to reclaiming the Curtis Cup from the United States at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club. Later, Maguire tied for 21st at the Olympics, producing a sparkling 65 in her second round.