(Photo courtesy of FSU Sports Information)
Ciarán O’Lionaird is not your average collegiate super-running machine.
The Cork, Ireland native is quick to note that his success as a runner didn’t come without a few sacrifices along the way. He was initially recruited by Michigan coach Ron Warhurst after an impressive high school career. A variety of injuries related to his back, hips and pelvis hindered his performance and potential, prompting O’Lionaird’s transfer to Florida State University.
“The idealist in me as a child wanted to be in the Olympics,” said the three-time All-American. “As years and injuries piled up, my performance dwindled. I had a lot of damaging problems while struggling with my form, and the idea of running post-college and in the Olympics didn’t seem realistic to me.”
Perhaps the transfer was the best thing that could have happened to him. While running for FSU, O’Lionaird became the 2011 ACC 1500-meter champion, and a 2011 World Championship 1500-meter finalist, clear evidence that he had finally conquered his injuries and was back in running form.
“Coach Bob Braman took me in and created an infrastructure me for a life outside of running… and in case a breakthrough happened,” said the Literature major. “It did, and I’m extremely grateful for the people who had faith in me.”
After the NCAA season, O’Lionaird found himself running the European Circuit. On August 3rd, 2011, the Irishman ran the 1500-meter in Belgium.
“I ran 3:34.43, which is the “A” standard for Olympics, and I backed that up at the World Championship by placing 10th at the final and going to World Indoors,” said O’Lionaird. This secured his place for the 2012 London Olympic Games, despite his injury issues and a left Achilles tendon flare up at the World Indoors.
Ireland’s world-class runner filled headlines when he made a dramatically late change of coaches a mere three months before the London Olympics. He moved to a Nike-sponsored training group, the Oregon Track Club Elite, which has been helping him prepare for his impending departure to London.
“I feel grateful to all the people supportive of me,” said the Irish Olympian. “It’s not just an honor for me, but I feel like it’s a vindication for all of the hard work my family, current sponsors, and Florida State University put in as well.”
“I didn’t even think at this point last year that I’d be going to the Olympics, but it goes without saying that with support and strength… anything can happen.”