Louise Shanahan: Achieving Her Olympic Dream Three Years Ahead Of Schedule

Louise Shanahan decided to pursue a spot at the Olympics 3 years ahead of schedule and made it to Tokyo against all the odds.

Louise Shanahan: Achieving Her Olympic Dream Three Years Ahead Of Schedule
HerSport Editor
HerSport Editor

Setting a PB of 2:01.44 during the indoor season this year, 800M runner Louise Shanahan decided to pursue a spot at the Olympics three years ahead of schedule.

An injury from 2015 had postponed her career slightly, but the 24-year-old persevered through a consistent training regime to bounce back as the Irish 1500m champion last year and the 800m winner at the 2021 Nationals with a time of 2:03.62. 

These records significantly moved her up three places into the top-48 qualifying rank, allowing her an outside possibility at the quadrennial Games spots as they account for five of your best performances during the qualifying period.

“It’s definitely a weird system” says the 2013 European Youth gold medallist.


“The rules were kind of out there from two years ago and I just sat down and learned how to qualify.”

“Thankfully I got my legs into shape that they could run the times that I needed them to.”

Remarkably, the University of Cambridge student secured all five of those tallied in the last four months to pull off the mother of all turnarounds.


This Olympic dream was not sudden however and had been years in the works, despite Shanahan only considering it a real possibility in June of this year.

“I remember the rowers done an interview in 2016 and I think it was Gary [O’Donovan] that said he had watched the 2012 Olympics and just decided he was going to qualify for the 2016 competition and that was going to be that” she says.

“I said so if you just decide it and that’s all that you need to do I’m going to decide now that I’m going to go to Tokyo 2020!”

Needless to say the Cork athlete admits that “did not at all go to plan.”

Watch the full pre-Olympics interview here with Louise Shanahan. Subscribe to Her Sport’s YouTube channel for more videos, follow us on Instagram, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest sporting news and content.

“If the Olympics had have been in 2020 not only would I not have been on the plane I don’t think anyone would have said ‘oh she just missed it’ or anything like that, I would have been way off the map.”

Considering herself to be a “high maintenance athlete,”  it was only right for her to be coached by someone who would push her to great lengths and be fully present for training.

During her childhood, her father Ray was her main coach until she moved to England, where she was then trained by her current coach, Phil O’Dell. 

“I’m really lucky to have both men coaching me and it’s a privilege to be coached by father. I think he understands me better than anyone else.”

Shanahan and Ray, are the first father and daughter duo to win a 1500m National title, and although the Trinity graduate competed in Tokyo at the 800m discipline (finishing seventh in her heat with a time of 2:03.57) who knows what the future is to hold for her when she strives for her intended target of Paris 2024.

Our full interview with Louise can be viewed here.

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