27-year-old Ciara Mageean, hails from Portaferry, County Down is a middle-distance International athlete competing in the 800m and 1500m. Ciara won a European bronze medal in 1500in 2016, after coming back from a severe ankle injury when she unable to compete or train over a two-year period. In 2019 she claimed another bronze in the European Indoor Athletics Championships.
In 2019 Mageean also set a new Irish Indoor Mile record of 4:28.31 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston and achieved the Olympic qualification standard at the Monaco Diamond League in July with a time of 4:01.21 well inside the needed standard of 4:04.20
Her main target for the 2019 season is the IAAF World Championships scheduled from 27 September and 6 October 2019 in Doha, Qatar at the renovated multi-purpose Khalifa International Stadium.
20×20: Questions with Ciara Mageann
1. What’s your first memory of sport as a child?
My first sporting memories are of learning to play camogie, pucking the ball about in my Granny’s garden with my Daddy and big sister Maire, and following my aunt Edel to the hurley club to hit the ball back to her while she practiced frees. My first memories of racing were in school. I lived for sports day, I’d practice in the weeks leading up to it by racing my siblings and cousins in my Granny’s garden. I loved being outside and was always super competitive.
2. How did you first become involved in sport?
My first love was camogie, and like most GAA families you’re born into it. I played for Portaferry from as early as I was allowed. I got involved in athletics thanks to my school teachers, we raced a few races in primary school but it wasn’t until I went to Assumption Grammar that my athletics really took off. My PE teacher Mrs McCambridge asked me if I’d like to try cross country and I jumped at the chance.
3. What sports did you try as a child?
I grew up playing camogie, but I also did Irish dancing, tap dancing, and played a bit of football. I also did drama, not really my forte – my little brother is the performer in the family.
4. What decided you to settle on your chosen sport
I wanted to represent Ireland at the highest level. My toss up was between camogie and athletics. I dreamt of being in the Olympics, so athletics won!
5. Who has had the most impact on your sporting career?
Goodness, as I’m writing this it’s bringing so many fantastic people to mind, who have played so many crucial roles in making me the athlete I am today.I wouldn’t be where I am today without my parents, they carted me everywhere throughout my childhood and gave me every opportunity to excel in sport. Be it camogie matches or athletics races, they never complained about the early mornings to bring me to Belfast to train, or all the dirty gear! I have to say my aunt Edel Mason was always my idol growing up. She played camogie and I aspired to be like her, and when my dreams switched to athletics she supported me all the way throughout the ups and downs. I’ve had 4 coaches in my life who have taught me so much. The first is Elizabeth Collins, my camogie coach from the age of 8 to 18. Elizabeth instilled in me the values of sportsmanship. She not only taught me the skills of camogie but the mental skills that I’d carry into my adult life both on and off the field of play. I’ve had 3 athletics coaches, Eamonn Christie, Jerry Kiernan and my current coach Steve Vernon. Each one strengthened and honed my athletic abilities while nurturing me as an athlete and a person. I’ll always be truly grateful for everything they have done for me.
6. What female do you most admire in the world of sport?
It’s too hard to narrow this down, being a female athlete I admire a lot of the women. Be that those who came before me in sport creating a pathway for women today to compete, or the athletes I rub shoulders with now. I see women coaching local teams, challenging themselves to achieve new goals, and overcoming all the obstacles that come before them. These are the women that I admire the most, nothing makes me happier than seeing my little cousins face light up when she tells me of the goals she scored or her new Judo moves. There are women to admire all around us in the sporting world.
7. Outside of sport what do you do in your leisure time?
I studied physiotherapy in UCD and and qualified a few years ago but I’m currently a full time athlete now so my day is solely dedicated to training. I usually train 2 to 3 times a day. So in between that I rest, eat and get ready for the next run. I enjoy reading, doing a bit of arts and crafts with my team mates, and I have two hurls in Manchester to have a puck about! My boyfriend bought me a guitar when I moved to join my team 2 years ago so I really need to get round to learning how to play it!
8. What is the last movie you went to see? What is your favourite movie of all time?
We had a wee movie night with my team mates in NB Manchester recently to see Yesterday, which was great because I love the Beatles. My favourite movie of all time would probably be Miss Congeniality, I like something light hearted and funny. Plus love a bit of girl power!
9. What music do you listen to?
I listen to a bit of everything, my spotify playlist ranges from Mary Black, to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
10. Are you a reading fan? If so what are you currently reading?
I don’t read as much as I should but I do enjoy it, I’m currently reading “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.
11. Do you follow any sports stars on social media? If so who?
I love following my fellow Irish athletes, the 20×20 movement has been fantastic for also raising my awareness of the achievements of my counterparts. I love reading about our boxers, golfers, GAA players, soccer players, rugby players, badminton, modern pentathalon, swimming… the list goes on.
12. Forget about your sporting diet for a moment? Your favourite meal when you breakout?
To be honest I have a really healthy approach to food… it’s fuel. So I don’t have a breakout meal, I eat similarly all year round weather I’m on a break or not. I believe in being happy and healthy with my diet and have a wee biscuit or bar of chocolate if I want to, I just don’t over indulge. The only thing I probably do eat on my break that I wouldn’t normally are some Pringles!
13. Who do you most admire in your own sport?
A lot of the time we only see the athletes on the podium, but I have to say I have a lot of admiration for those who have overcome some tough times and kept their love for the sport. My own team mates in Team NB MCR Eli Kirk and Anna Silvander have had some tough injuries, I’ve seen them approach each day with a smile and determination that reminds me how lucky we are to be out competing. Our very own Phil Healy is an example of this too, overcoming a broken bone to be back racing this summer, I admire the strength to stay strong and work out of the limelight.
14. Do you have a special ritual before competing?
I wouldn’t say I have a special ritual, I used to have lucky pants and socks but they are long gone now. I decided that I make my own luck, and the good days weren’t down to what I was wearing. I do have a routine I stick to on race day. It means I feel calm and ready because my prep for every race is the same. I plan my timetable for race day the day before. Right down to when I will have my last snack before the race. I write it all on a piece of paper and slot in the back of my phone to cast my eye over on race day.
15. Do you still play other sports for fun?
Unfortunately not, I’d love to but aiming to compete at the highest level of athletics requires my full focus. I do still puck abut in the garden but no competing in other sports until I retire from athletics.
16. What advice would you give to young girls & boys to encourage them to participate in sport?
My words of advice would be to go and try a few different things, see what you like. Some people love team sports, others love individual sports, some people like competing, others don’t. The beauty of sport is there are so many options out there and there is something for everyone.
17. What has been your biggest sporting achievement?
I had a pretty glistening underage career, winning World Junior Silver and European Youth gold but I missed my whole under 23 career due to injury. So the greatest achievement for me would be the bronze at the European outdoors and confirming it at the indoors this year. Just to silence any doubters and any little doubts that floated about my own head.
18. How do you cope with (a) injuries; (b) other setbacks?
Like most sports people I’ve had my fair share of setbacks and injuries. When it comes to injuries I hope the worst of them are behind me (touch wood). I have a great team around me, I see the physio and the sports doctor and I follow their guidelines. I have a good head on my shoulders when it comes to dealing with niggles and the aches and pains that come with pushing your body to the max. In fairness injuries sometimes seem easier to deal with than the setbacks because at least then you have a reason for any dips in performance. When a setback happens, I remind myself that I am not a robot, I try my best every time I step out, sometimes things just don’t work out how we hoped. It can be hard to deal with these times but I always think we learn more from our failures than we do from our victories. I write things down, take a bit of time and then evaluate, and re-evaluate them, then I learn. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)
19. What do your family make of your success?
You would have to ask them this question. I think my family are proud. They see all the hard work and the sacrifices I make, they see the good days and the bad. They are proud of my determination and commitment, they love to see me smiling on those good days. Equally they are there on the tough ones, just as proud and by my side.
20. What does sport mean to you?
Well this is a deep question. On the face of it sport is now my profession, I’m a full time athlete, it’s my job but if anyone thought sport was only that to me they don’t know me very well. Long before athletics came into my life sport was my escape, my identity, my dream and my driver. Goodness I’d live for camogie, when I think of my childhood the majority of memories I have a hurl in my hand. I learnt passion through sport, learnt how to control my emotions, how to harness my ambition. Sport gave me a way to express myself and to grow. To learn about who I was, and what I could be. Now, my relationship to sport has somewhat changed but it continues to teach me. To show me that the only limits I have in life are those I set for myself. Sport is my pulse, it’s not everything in my life but without it, I’d cease to exist as I know it!