TV View: Dunlevy and McCrystal know it’s not always sofa and champagne

The scenes broadcast from the sittingrooms of our Paralympic heroes have lit up our mornings

It is becoming familiar, this household scene of unimaginable pride. The perfect early morning energy shot to send you into a dull autumn morning sunny and bright.

The sittingroom sofa stuffed with bodies, a tricolour on the wall in the background, a sibling sister in an Irish rugby shirt, sitting parents proud and forefront sipping champagne when all around the country the chocolate milk from the Coco Pops is still irrigating mouths.

Welcome to Paralympic breakfast television and an Irish team that has been delivering morning wake-up calls for over a week. Smile. Tokyo doesn’t stop giving with Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal yesterday’s installation of Ireland’s blazing breakfast vibe.

The duo's gold medal in the B time-trial followed on from Nicole Turner, who followed on from Jason Smyth, who followed on from Dunlevy and McCrystal, who followed on from Ellen Keane. So welcome to Crawley in West Sussex, where Dunlevy was brought up and Donegal dad John, his Mountcharles accent punching through, sits in a black shirt with Ireland in white lettering across the front, his wife Alana beside him.


“It was so exciting, such a wonderful race. We are so delighted for them,” says Alana in such a delicate English accent you could believe it knows no harsh worlds. You couldn’t envisage Alana saying ‘they pulled like dogs’ although she is the one with the long stemmed glass in her hand.

But that’s okay. Words are sometimes superfluous especially with the image of McCrystal and Dunlevy at 9.46 in the morning captured just after their race with sweat soaking their hairlines. It was the stressed faces of two athletes that had just spun around a track for more than 47 minutes in humid Tokyo. Obliterated the field it has to be said. Pure gold.

That drained image quickly turned to the emotion of tears welling up when the two received their gold medals, the Irish national anthem banging off with the flag rising and the now vulnerable, red-rimmed eyes peering out from behind the Covid masks as a choir of angels sing and a sacred snow-capped Mt Fuji sits in the background. You think that backdrop was accidental.

Well, tears and pride and love and success, it's not a bad way to motor into midweek. Even the cut to the chase RTÉ panellist Mark Rohan is taken by the repeat of their win in Rio five years ago before the competitive athlete inside returns.

There is an unexciting side to winning gold medals that Rohan is expert at revealing. Like a glimpse into the kitchen as the doors open, you see the pot washers and onion dicers, so too for the elite is there the pragmatism of repeating learned drills, sticking to mundane routines and embracing denial, both mental and physical.

Rohan, a former Gaelic footballer who was paralysed in 2001 and won two gold medals in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, has the competitive mind of the pair already mapped.

“That they backed up the gold medal of Rio shows what champions they are,” he says. “Celebrate for an hour, get the protein shake in and get back to work."

All in the name of winning another medal, that’s probably what they did.

It was also an animated McCrystal, who reacted to the three-in-a-row question before it even reached Dunlevy’s ears. The prospect of adding Paris gold to Rio and Tokyo seemed at that moment too much for the 43-year-old mother.

“Are you joking. No , no, no , no,” says McCrystal putting her hand in the air. “Looking for a pilot . . . ?,”she jokes. Or is it a joke. “We’re taking one day at a time,” interjects Dunlevy. “We have another race coming up.”

True, the vexed issue of Paris in three years’ time, when McCrystal will be 46 and Dunlevy 42 and how heroic would that be. It is not straightforward and is probably something McCrystal would first have to run past the Ballybay section of An Garda Siochána in Monaghan. That and her two daughters.

She is the eyes of the team at the front, who pilots and helps to push the bike around the course, Dunlevy diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at 11-years-old and officially blind.

"It is incredibly hard to win a gold medal," observes Natalya Coyle, who has tried three times in the modern pentathlon at the Olympic Games. It's not a baldly obvious thing to say. Just a reminder. It's never always sofa and champagne.