They don’t make them much tougher than Kildare woman Caroline Ryan who has won Ireland’s first medal at the World Track Cycling Championships in over a century mere weeks after two accidents saw her break a toe and a rib.
Ryan, originally from Thomastown near Johnstownbridge but now living in Straffan, came third in the women’s points race in Melbourne last Thursday.
Her father Willie is one of the Ryan family from Graigues, between Prosperous and Robertstown, with the result that the woman now ranked ninth in world track cycling has relatives all over Kildare.
Due home early this morning, the 32 year old Garda has far less experience than her rivals in the very competitive event, having only switched from rowing to cycling in 2008.
Her achievement, considering the huge money and government support given to competitors from other countries, the fact that she must leave the country to train, and her recently healed injuries, has been described as “staggering” by seasoned commentators.
Halfway through the 25 kilometer race, Ryan joined Jasmin Glaesser of Canada and Hong Kong’s Wong Wan Yiu in escaping from the main bunch and joining Russian Anastasia Chulkova.
The four then worked together to gain a lap over the other 14 riders in the race.
Points races are 100 laps of the wooden track, or velodrome, with a sprint for the line every five laps. Points are awarded to the first, second and third placed riders in each sprint and to riders who gain a lap on the rest of the main field.
By lapping the rest, the four women each gained a massive 20 points.
Ryan, who is sponsored by Bus Éireann and Cunga, came third in two of the sprints. It was enough to secure a bronze medal in a discipline that wasn’t even her main goal.
On Sunday, in the individual pursuit, her main goal, she set a personal best and new Irish record knocking 10 seconds off her old time, coming in ninth.
She is due into Dublin airport at about 2pm this afternoon, Tuesday.