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David Gillick: 'The Talk Of Medals Just Needs To Be Kept In Check'

7 September 2022; Ambassador David Gillick in attendance at the launch of European Week of Sport 2022, in partnership with Sport Ireland. For more information and to find an event near you, go to - www.sportireland.ie/europeanweekofsport. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

By Paul Keane Updated

David Gillick reckons Irish athletics is enjoying a 'golden generation' but he hasn't changed his cautious outlook regarding our medals prospects at the 2024 Olympic Games.

Gillick stated after last year's Tokyo games that, regarding Paris '24, 'I don't think we're talking medals', pointing out that he was being realistic and that 'hopefully come LA in 2028 we might have a conversation that could be a lot different around medals'.

A number of athletes including Ciara Mageean, who will race in this evening's Diamond League final in Zurich, Rhasidat Adeleke and Israel Olatunde have since enjoyed strong 2022 seasons and set various national records.

Gillick, speaking at the launch of the 2022 European Week of Sport which runs from September 23-30, said the achievements should be celebrated but argued that Olympics success is still largely beyond reach.

Asked if he has revised his Olympics prediction in light of recent successes at the European Championships in Munich and elsewhere, Gillick shook his head.

15 August 2022; Israel Olatunde of Ireland, right, is interviewed by RTÉ's David Gillick after winning his Men's 100m heat during day 5 of the European Championships 2022 at the Olympiastadion in Munich, Germany. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

"No, I haven't," he said.

"Two years to Paris, the Worlds next year, we need to make sure we get robust competing at a European level, that's our playground.

"We have to remain mindful that going from Europeans to a global level is very, very difficult. We can't get ahead of ourselves to think we'll dominate in Budapest next year, that we'll get 10 medals in Paris - that's not going to happen.

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"It's how can we make sure we repeat what we did in Munich in the next Europeans and make sure that people who are making finals or semi-finals are getting a bit higher up there and hopefully getting more people at European level on the podium?

"I think the talk of medals just needs to be kept in check. I don't think we're at a level where we can realistically look and say, 'Okay, we can get two or three medals on the track in an Olympic Games'. I think we're still a little bit off that.

"There might be one or two perhaps but I think overall we're looking at firstly, okay, how can we build on what we did in Munich."

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Beijing Olympian Gillick didn't attempt to play down the golden generation idea though, admitting he's happy to use that language.

19 August 2022; Ciara Mageean of Ireland celebrates after finishing second in the Women's 1500m Final during day 9 of the European Championships 2022 at the Olympiastadion in Munich, Germany. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

"I have no problem with people jumping up and down saying, 'It's a golden generation', I think it is," said Gillick.

"I think it has the potential to go further but I suppose, again, I've been there, I've ran fast times and you think, 'Yeah, yeah, I'm going to improve' and it doesn't happen.

"Sport, athletics, can be very fragile so I wouldn't like to heap all that pressure on those young athletes coming through. I think it's more, 'Back up what you're doing, build that structure around you. Make sure that, one, you're qualifying and then you're getting through rounds and I think if you can do that then things will happen for you'."

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On European silver medallist Mageean, who broke Sonia O'Sullivan's national 1500m record last week with a 3:56.63 run in Belgium, Gillick said she can be confident this evening. But she will be part of an elite field that includes Kenya's 3:50.37 runner Faith Kipyegon.

"She won't fear anyone, 100% won't fear anyone," said Gillick of Mageean.

"She's tactically running spot on this year, you can't fault that but there are a lot of good athletes in the field so I think for Ciara I'd say she'd like to back up what she did last week. She will be looking at the clock as well and thinking, 'Okay, could I possibly go a little quicker' or 'could I at least back up what I did last week'? I think, for her, that would be success from that race."

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Gillick himself is currently taking part in RTE's reality TV show, Ultimate Hell Week.

"I can't underestimate how demanding it was; no sleep, you're wet and you're cold, covered in muck and dirt and everything else - and that just keeps repeating itself," he said.

* Sport Ireland is calling on you and your family to get out and #BeActive between the 23rd - 30th of September and who knows, this may be the start of a new found love for sport. For more information and to find an event near you, see sportireland.ie/europeanweekofsport.

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