Dual award resolves judges’ dilemma

Aileen Reid and Aoife Clark jointly named Sportswoman of the Month for October


After the spell they’ve enjoyed this year on the international stage, Aileen Reid (née Morrison) and Aoife Clark presented the judges for these awards with a sizeable headache: which of the two should be added to the roll of honour in October to mark their achievements through 2013?

The obvious answer, of course, was both.

Athlete of the year
It’s just over a week ago that Reid was named “Athlete of the Year” at the Triathlon Ireland Awards, a decision that can’t have been too difficult in light of a season that saw her finish up as the eighth ranked triathlete in the world.

The highlight for the Derry woman, who won her first award with us precisely 24 months ago, was her silver medal at the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in London, on the course where she competed in the Olympics for Ireland.

By then she’d had two top 10 finishes in the series, and another two in the top 20, so she’d been impressively consistent. But the London performance topped everything.

“At the medal ceremony I loved watching the Irish flag flying,” she said of the experience, “but I dream some day I’ll hear the Irish anthem instead.”

And if you need an idea of the commitment required to get to Reid’s level, she gave a fair idea on her own blog (aileen-reid.com): “This year has been challenging for me. A new coach, a new group, new training methods and nine months away from home and from my husband of only 11 months!

‘I love my job’
“But I love my job, it’s only a sacrifice if you don’t. I may not have long in this game, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it whole-heartedly.” Plenty of challenges before then, but all eyes on Rio.

Aoife Clark’s year has been no less encouraging, the Kildare woman building, in some style, on her seventh place finish at the London Olympics.

At the end of October, she rode Fernhill Adventure to silver at the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horses Championships in France, the best performance by an Irish rider in the event’s 25-year history.

In April, she came eighth in the Badminton Horse Trials, the best result by an Irish rider in 12 years, and won a Three Star event at the Blenheim International Horse Trials, beating 84 of the world’s top riders. And her three finest results in 2013 were achieved on three different horses. She finishes the year at 11 in the world rankings.

Repeat: Plenty of challenges before then, but all eyes on Rio.