Susan Smith, Ireland’s third 1990s athletics heroine


The Irishwoman called Smith at the 1996 Olympics that it’s okay to like.

With Fionnuala Britton and her team mates European cross country champions, Derval O’Rourke still pulling out great championship performances, and Ciara Everard making her breakthrough by reaching a European Indoors final this spring, it’s a good time for Irish women’s athletics.

The first golden age of Irish women’s athletics was during the 1990s, when Sonia O’Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan enjoyed glittering, medal-laden international success.

At the same time, Susan Smith in the 400 metres hurdles was also competing prominently at the highest level. At the 1997 World Championships in Athens, Smith became the first Irishwoman to reach a major championship sprint final. She also made it to the 1998 European Championship final, but barely missed out on an Olympic final in Atlanta in 1996 despite breaking the Irish record.

Smith also ran with distinction at the 100 metres hurdles, both as a junior international and as 8-times Irish national senior champion. In the last of those wins, in 1998, she saw off an early challenge from a certain up-and-coming Leevale athlete called Derval O’Rourke.

You can watch Susan Smith’s 1997 World Championship performances in this television interview (part 1 and part 2) just after she returned from the events in Athens. RTE’s iconic sports presenter Bill O’Herlihy is asking the questions, aided by panellists John Treacy and Eamonn Coghlan. Bill is clearly and completely smitten by his guest!

[Videos: YouTube/urbsintacta]

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